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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.