Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Storyteller

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The Storyteller

by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016

Ancient storytellers draw in readers one scene, one suspense at a time; so enthralled are the listeners, that they barely notice they are under the storyteller’s spell.

The Storyteller does what a good storyteller does, wraps one story inside another, inside another and always leaves you wanting for more—the true magic of a storyteller.

This story is about a boy who lives in the Moroccan deserts and finds himself on the doorway of death, when he meets an ancient, long forgotten storyteller.  The storyteller charms the boy with stories of a glorious blue bird and rich, blue miraculous yarns.  That night the sandstorm announces he will return at sundown take over the kingdom.  Inspired, the boy offers to tell him a story, and he repeats the storyteller’s story, stretching the story out two nights.  In that time, the boy gathers water sellers and through his own ingenuity, finds a way to save the city.

In an oversized format dressed in Moroccan colors and arts, readers will eagerly be swept off to another land in the magic of the storyteller.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Giant Squid

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Giant Squid

by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Neal Porter Book, 2016

The giant squid is an animal rarely seen and how it lives and survives is mostly unknown.  In this book, writer and illustrator work together to shroud the giant squid in its mystery, so much so that the story appears on the first five pages before readers reach the title page and all readers see are bits of the squid, just as in real life.  Each part of the squid is described in detail and slowly, ever so slowly we see each part until we reach the eye, which boldly takes up one whole page spread.  Readers learn babies are two inches long and hatch from eggs, but no one knows where the female squid lays them.  The story ends with a spectacular four page fold-out featuring the squid, then on the next page it’s gone.  Masterly written and masterly illustrated in tune with the creature itself.  A brilliant book.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

My Dad at the Zoo

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My Dad at the Zoo
by Coralie Saudo, illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, 2016
Originally published in France.

A hilarious story of what happens when a son and dad switch roles.

Most of the time dad is great, until Sundays.  When he wakes, he wakes everyone and cries to go to the zoo.  He pretends he’s a camel and gallops to the ticket window.  He flirts with flamingos, patters like the penguins and terrorizes the turtles.  And even though his son explains it’s too early, Dad has a meltdown screaming for ice cream.  But the worst is the souvenir shop.  Son holds “Dad’s hand with all my might, trying to keep him from going in. But Dad is still bigger and stronger than me.”

The muted illustrations totally capture Dad’s childlike antics, bringing a chuckle to every page.  Both adult and child readers will enjoy this one.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Bulldozer’s Big Day

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Bulldozer’s Big Day
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015

Little bulldozer, excited his special day is here, runs to his friends to invite them to his party.  But digger says today is, “Scooping … scooping … scooping,” and Bulldozer’s blade droops a little.  He runs to Scraper, Grader and Roller and they are all busy filling, chopping, and mashing. Sadden nobody’s remembered, Bulldozer turns to go home, when “Wooot!”  then “Feeef!” then “Tooot! Hoooot! Wooooo!” and Crane lifts a big cake up from a hole and Bulldozer and his friends celebrate his special day.  A heart touching story captured in award-winning artist, Eric Rohmann’s, friendly, kid-like and inviting illustrations.  Great for young ones who are fascinated by large heavy equipment.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Your Alien

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Your Alien
by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Goro Fujita
Sterling Children’s Books, 2015

Written in ‘second person’, unusual for any story, the narrator tells the reader about what the boy will do when an alien arrives.  How he will trick the parents into letting him keep him, how he will take him to school, and the many ways the boy will play with the alien.  But there are a few problems.  The alien doesn’t eat food, but prefers eating couches. Sad, the alien looks outside.  The boy will comfort the alien, but the alien will still be sad.  The boy will know what to do to make everything well.  A fun fantasy exploring what could happen’ “if an alien arrives.”  The clear, crisp illustrations tell much of the emotional side of the story.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

A Child of Books

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A Child of Books

by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston
Candlewick Press, 2016

A brilliant story that inspires a child’s imagination to wonder how they “are of books” and “come from a world of stories.”

A young girl, raised with stories, imagines a trip where she invites a friend to travel with her.  They walk through the “forests of fairy tales”, hike up the “mountains of make-believe” and “sleep in clouds of song.”  She believes “we’re made of stories.”  The illustrator Sam Winston fills each page with words that shape the objects in the pictures, weave paths, and make tree branches, shadows, and stars.  Every page is a feast for the child of words and stories as they identify story characters, popular story phrases and poems woven into illustrations.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Mountain Chef, How One Man Lost his Groceries, Changed his Plans, and Helped Cook up the National Park Service

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Mountain Chef, How One Man Lost his Groceries, Changed his Plans, and Helped Cook up the
National Park Service

by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Rich Lo
Charlesbridge, 2016

Mountain Chef tells of Tie Sing’s trials and tribulations to prepare gourmet meals for first trip of visionaries taken to Yosemite in the effort to form a national park service.  The time was 1915 when all food and people were carried in on mules and horseback.  The parks were undeveloped and the terrain was rough. For the chef, it was one of those trips where everything that could go wrong did, and how he creatively solved each challenge and kept the bellies of the visionaries happy.

Tie Sings accomplishments were significant in an era where Chinese-American discrimination flourished.  A mountain peak named after him honors his consistent contributions towards forming a national park service.

Illustrator Rich Lo’s pencil drawings and watercolors splash Yosemite to life and invite readers to savor each page.  The artwork itself is well-worth discovering. The book’s beauty wrapping the historical story of one person’s dream in an area of discrimination makes for a fascinating, inspiring read.

Following a well-told story are photos from the trip and background on the National Park Service.

In an era where Chinese-American discrimination flourished, Mountain Chef features Tie Sing who kept the bellies of the visionaries happy on this first critical trip to Yosemite.

Read an interview with illustrator Rich Lo.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

The Power of Henry’s Imagination

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The Power of Henry’s Imagination

by Skye Byrne, illustrated by Nic George
Aladdin, 2015

“Believe, and it shall be” is the theme of this story.  Henry was gifted Raspberry, a stuffed bunny, when he was born and played with it every day, all day.  Then one day Raspberry was missing.  Henry and his parents tore his house apart, but could not find Raspberry.  Henry’s wise grandpa suggested, “You just have to imagine that Raspberry is with you—in this moment!”  Trusting his grandpa, he did.  He and Raspberry got caught in a storm, were pirates on the sea, and flew into space.  He even went to sleep believing Raspberry was with him.  That night the mailman returns Raspberry, who had been out on a path and when Henry wakes the next morning, Raspberry is with him, just like Grandpa said.

The illustrations, combining photography with pen and ink sketches, bring a mystical, yet reality-based touch to the story.  A delight to read and a story with an important message.  A great book for the development of a young one’s spirit.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

 

Interview with Author/Illustrator Rich Lo

I was contacted by Charlesbridge last fall about illustrating the book. They liked the watercolor technique used for Father’s Chinese Opera. It was a technique I had used on a couple of projects commissioned by Great Books Foundation 2010. It took about two weeks to create the sketches from the manuscript and about 30 days to complete the finished art. The media are pencil and watercolor composed digitally.

Q. What do you mean when you say the publisher used ‘spot varnish’ on your illustrations?  Where was it used on your book, Mountain Chef, and how does it help ‘pop’ the illustrations?

Spot varnish is a printing process used to highlight areas of emphasis. In the book Mountain Chef, the varnish was used on the artwork. If you look closely, you can see a slight sheen over the illustrations. The publisher also used quality semi-gloss white paper stock. The combination resulted in rich colors throughout the book.

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Q. As an accomplished artist in your own right, how did your journey take you to illustrating children’s books?

In 2012, I was emailing out samples of my work one night on the internet. One email was answered. It was from Anna Olswanger, a literary agent working out of NYC. She asked “I know you can do great art but can you write text?” Without hesitation, I said yes. I had no experience. In about 6 months, she chose 1 of 9 vignettes loosely based on childhood memories when I lived in Hong Kong. Layouts were created into a presentation. She sent the text with three color illustrations to the editors. We agreed on the terms with Sky Pony Press in 2013 and Father’s Chinese Opera became my first published book in 2014.

Q. For your first book, Father’s Chinese Opera, you won the 2014-2015 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book Category.  How did you come to write the story?  How has that award on your first picture book impacted your life?

I lived in Hong Kong for the first 6 years of my life. Father was a famous opera composer and a conductor. I was too young to be in school, so he often took me to work. I met all the actors and acrobats and sat in on rehearsals and performances. Those were happy times, so it was easy to visualize. I used my imagination to create the scenes and wrote text to describe them. It was the right process for me.

The award was unexpected. It is an accomplishment like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It gave me confidence to write and illustrate more children’s books. At a book talk at the Chinese American Museum Chicago, I honored my parents as heroes of my life. It also validated for me that miracles can happen.

Q. How is creating picture books changing your life?

It adds another dimension to my repertoire. The picture book industry provides a stage for creativity. As a professional artist, you want to extend and build skill sets to be better. I was fortunate to be invited to the ALA (American Library Association), participated in an award ceremony in San Francisco and the Book Expo in Chicago in the last two years. These are incredible experiences and are not to be taken for granted.

Q. Your first book was inspired by your father’s work as a composer, so you were born into a creative family.  Was your artistic interest always supported by your family?  How has their support helped?  When did you know you were going to be an artist?

Growing up in a pragmatic Chinese American culture, the arts are not always looked upon as valued professions. I followed my passion and worked hard to develop an artistic life and career. Raw skills are refined and imagination cultivated. With strong fundamentals and a lot of luck, I was able to make a living and raise a family with the earnings from the artwork.

Q. Do you do classroom visits?  If so, what is the response of the children?

Yes, I do. The children are more fascinated by the illustrations than by the story itself. I am learning how to make the artwork even more interesting for children.

Q. Earlier, you were commissioned to illustrate stories by Ray Bradbury and Langston Hughes, among others.  What was it like for you to create visuals for some of these great writers? Did you immediately see images as you read their words?

It is a privilege to illustrate for any author, but the great ones are icing on the cake. I do see imageries as I read. Keywords are used for initial ideas. Compositions are refined and techniques chosen to fit the story. I am blessed to be able to explore and then perfect techniques on projects.

Q. Do you have any more books coming out soon?  Where can people find out more about you?

A picture book titled New Year, published by Sky Pony Press, will be coming out in November 2016.

Rich Lo’s work can be viewed on his websites:
http://www.artclickercreative.com/
http://greatsketch.com/
http://www.studio10twentytwo.com/

Review Rich Lo’s books on Amazon.  Mountain Chef, Father’s Chinese Opera, New Year

Originally published online at Manhattan Book Review

She Stood for Freedom, The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

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She Stood for Freedom, The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero.  Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

by Loki Mulholland and Angela Fairwell, illustrated by Charlotta Janssen
Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2016

In 1952, when Joan, a white girl, saw the dilapidated one-room school for blacks, when her school was a brand-new brick one, she decided, “…she was going to do something about it when she had the chance.”  Joan participated in the civil rights movement, including the Freedom Rides, where she was arrested and sent to prison.  She went to Tougaloo College, a back school, and the state of Mississippi tried to close it down because of Joan.  She met Martin Luther King, participated in Woolworth Sit-Ins and the 1964 March on Washington.  In her life she had been shot at, chased after, and targeted by white people to be killed.  She calls herself an ordinary person.  She encouraged people, “Find a problem, get some friends together, and go fix it.  …you don’t have to change the world… just change your world.”  This inspiring story of a young woman who put herself in danger stood up for civil rights.  It’s a refreshing story of one of the many white people who fought for civil rights in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Read more reviews on Amazon.