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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lovely Book Captures Small Drama on Duck Pond


On Duck Pond
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall
The Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2017

Jane Yolen and Bob Marstall have teamed up again for On Duck Pond, a sequel to On Bird Hill. Like its predecessor, it is a lovely, quiet book about the beauty and drama found in nature.

Again a boy and his dog take a walk, this time by a pond that is suddenly disturbed by the arrival of a noisy group of ducks.

Yolen uses rhyming couplets and a few triplets to tell her story in first-person narration. Though rhyming is difficult to do well, she does a masterful job of it, and the rhyme and alliteration enhance the story with fun word play.

“Down they splashed. The water splattered. /Then they chittered, whistled, chattered.”

The story is told in a symmetrical way beginning by telling who is disturbed by the ducks: trout and turtles, a frog, a heron, tadpoles, the water, and the boy narrator. Then the ducks move on and the pond grows still again. The wildlife returns, the heron, turtles, trout and fingerlings, tadpoles and the frog.

Finally, the boy senses this shared experience has bonded the wildlife and himself, and he walks home feeling “awfully fond of everyone on old Duck Pond.”

Marstall’s full-page pastel illustrations echo the quiet beauty and drama of the story. They include many kinds of ducks, birds and other wildlife that isn’t mentioned in the story.

At the end of the book, children can learn more about the different birds and animals. They are invited to go back and look for them in the story.

About the Author


Jane Yolen is the author of more than 350 books including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon; You Nest Here with Me, co-authored with her daughter Heidi E. Y. Stemple; and the New York Times best-selling series How Do Dinosaurs ... Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages. She lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Visit her website at www.janeyolen.com.

About the Illustrator



Bob Marstall has illustrated nine nonfiction children’s books, including The Lady and the Spider which sold over a quarter million copies and was a Rainbow Room selection. He has also been honored with an ALA Notable award, an IRA Teachers’ Choice, a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children, and three John Burroughs selections. Two of his books were among the “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century” in the New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children, 3rd Edition. He lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Visit his website at www.marstallstudio.com.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Colorful Watercolor Illustrations Bring Magic to “Rain”




Rain
By Sam Usher
Templar, 2017

In “Rain,” the young boy narrator wakes up and can’t wait to go outside to play in the rain. He loves catching raindrops, splashing in puddles, and seeing everything upside down in reflections.

But Granddad says it is best to stay indoors, so the narrator reads and looks out the window watching the rain. It keeps raining and raining.

The boy tells Granddad he’d like to go on a voyage with sea monsters, but Granddad says, “Let’s just wait for the rain to stop.”

He keeps watching and waiting, but the rain doesn’t stop. Granddad is busy going through the mail, and writing. The boy reads books about adventure, and looks outside the window.

He tells Granddad he wants to visit the floating city with acrobats and carnivals and musical boatmen.

Finally, Granddad says, “Quick! Let’s go – I need to get this in the mail!” The boy looks out the window and the rain has stopped.

They go to the mailbox, but the boy imagines they’re on a boat and sees all the things he’s dreamed about in a wild, colorful adventure.

Back at home, they drink hot chocolate and warm up, and the boy hopes it rains again tomorrow.  

The story is simple, but the watercolor-washed ink drawings are magical. When the boy and his grandfather go outdoors, the wild, colorful spreads delightfully illustrate the narrator’s imagination. Young children will love it.

About the Author/Illustrator 


Sam Usher’s first book, Can You See Sassoon?, was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal and short-listed for the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Snow, the companion book to Rain, was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Usher lives in London.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Illustrator Publishes Delightful Book about Slinky


The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring
By Gilbert Ford
Athenium Books for Young Readers, 2016

The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring tells the story of how Richard James, an engineer and dreamer, came to invent the Slinky, a classic American toy.

It all happens by accident in 1943 when Richard is working for the United States Navy during wartime. His assignment is to invent a device to protect fragile ship equipment from vibrating in choppy seas.

A spring falls from a shelf onto his desk. Richard is fascinated by how the coils seems to take a walk. Maybe it won’t work for the Navy’s ships, but he knows he has stumbled upon something marvelous.

With the help of his family, Richard invents a new toy. The Slinky becomes one of the most popular toys in American history.

The delightful illustrations of old-fashioned drawings are sprinkled with photographs of vintage toys like marbles, game pieces and dollhouse furniture.

Children may be inspired by the story of an accidental invention. Undoubtedly, they will love looking for the many fun details in Ford’s illustrations.



About the Author/Illustrator


Gilbert Ford has illustrated many middle grade jackets, as well as the award-winning picture book Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. He holds a BFA in Illustration from Pratt Institute and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. This is his first nonfiction picture book.    

Monday, January 2, 2017

Beloved Author Publishes Two Beautiful Picture Books


Oskar Loves
By Britta Teckentrup
Prestel, 2016



Before I Wake Up
By Britta Teckentrup
Prestel, 2016

Britta Teckentrup, a popular German author-illustrator, has published two beautiful picture books, “Oscar Loves” and “Before I Wake Up.”

“Oskar Loves” tells the reader all the things that a happy, little black bird named Oskar loves. It begins, “This is Oskar./Oskar loves the deep blue ocean.../...and the soft green grass.”

The story continues with what Oskar loves about spring and autumn, cherries and pebbles, and other things in nature, but includes books and pictures.

The illustrations are simple but colorful, and attractive. Oskar himself is expressive though he is made up of only a few geometric shapes.

The story ends by inviting the reader to consider, “What do you love?” This would be fun for the reader and a parent or teacher.  

“Before I Wake Up” is the imaginative story of the girl narrator’s dreams. The rhyming text and detailed dark pictures take the reader on a journey with the girl and her stuffed lion friend who has become a real lion.

Together the girl and her lion fly on a bed that is being lifted like a hot air balloon by the moon. They fly over the seas and through storms, but she isn’t afraid because her lion protects her.

The girl swims with whales, rides on her lion’s back through a wood, and meets friendly wild creatures. She plays with her lion and feels brave with him near.

Finally, when night fades, the girl and her lion run out of the wood to a light meadow. The girl tells her lion friend goodbye and gets back on the hot air balloon bed to return home.

The illustrations are the strongest part of this story. They are beautiful and dreamlike, and full of small details to find.

The words sometimes sound a bit forced to make the rhymes. “In the blue meadow, I’m joined by my friend./We travel together in our world without end.” Or the rhymes are only near rhymes, such as “Together we fly/with arms stretched out wide/over the seas/and leave our worries behind.”

Once the A-B-C-B rhyme scheme is broken with an A-B-C-C pattern, “We feel the wind./We hear the sea./We sing our song./Together we’re strong.”

Nevertheless, I recommend the book for its beautiful, dreamlike pictures. Youngsters would enjoy following the characters through their adventure. It may also help them not to be afraid of their dreams.
     
About the Author/Illustrator


Britta Teckentrup is the author and illustrator of many beloved books for children, including The Memory Tree, The Odd One Out, and Grumpy Cat. Her artwork has been displayed in galleries around the world. She lives and works in Berlin, Germany, with her husband and young son.