by Mihn Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
Disney Hyperion, 2018
A boy visits his grandfather and they sit in silence, as one speaks Vietnamese and the other English. Finally, the boy pulls out his art materials and creates a superhero figure. Grandfather sees what he is doing and next to the boy’s caped superhero emblazoned in color, grandfathers creates a detailed black ink drawing of a Vietnamese warrior. Suddenly they communicate—through their art. Each one’s imagination adds to the other, the boys in color, the grandfathers in black ink. They create their new world, building a closeness, until… that old distance comes between them. But, having bridged their gap, they find a way to love one another.
A beautiful story of a relationship built on mutually shared gifts. Santat’s breathtaking, detailed art flushes out Le’s story bringing a compounded richness to each page.
The title promises a trip back in time, a mystery, and that’s exactly what’s delivered in this story poem tale with its mystical, magical illustrations.
We’re invited into an old house and on each page, we learn a few more things about the house, on a hill. All the items of the last owner are still in their place, as told my favorite line:
Who was this someone
who left without packing
someone who’s gone
but is still everywhere?
Two children are the house explorers, but not the main characters. The illustrations feature the main character, the house and all its contents. Readers learn much from a yellow mustard jar, an artist’s palate, and photos on the wall. The author draws us into the story when she wonders who may have lived there, and where they may have gone. After what must have been several hours, the children return home and the illustrations show they returned with a few treasures.
This is the kind of story poem that takes readers to a special place and will entice readers to return into the story’s feeling again and again.
A Choctaw tale, told in both English and Choctaw languages, tells of a young girl gifted as a cloud artist, where she turns clouds into pictures. With her gift Leona entertains her tribe. Then a circus promoter noticed the cloud art and asked Leona to make cloud art for the circus goers. Her first day she happily shares art as it comes to her. But by the second day, people started demanding for what they wanted to see, each demand becoming more and more outlandish. Angry, she stops the art and leaves. The next day she returns to give back the money given her and inform the promoter she will no longer do art for money.
Somehow a truth and honesty run through the story, where Leona listens to her heart to make her own decisions. And there’s a magic in a gift we don’t hear about, forming art in the clouds. The Choctaw show how they appreciate each person’s gift for what it gives to them in joy; money isn’t important. A refreshing tale.
Emma just moved to a new school and was sure no one would like her. Her hair was too plain, her dress was too plain, even her lunch was too plain. Several kids opened conversations, but Emma assumed they were better than her and didn’t respond. The class learned to make peace cranes and when Emma returned to her desk, she found a desk full of cranes with personal notes. She began to think that, “maybe, just maybe, me is enough!” A wonderful story that gives voice to all the ways kids think no one will like them. Included in the book are a pack of origami sheets and instructions on how to make a peace crane to share with others.
The words and illustrations take readers into the heart of a ‘sound’ genius, Mel Blanc, who, as an adult, created voices/sounds for 1500 movie/television characters.
Young Mel loves to create sounds to go along with the vivid characters he imagines. Everything is BIG for Mel. He Whooooooosh’s down the hall. He captures kids with his Rrow! RROW! Even, ‘garbage duty’ turns into a Zrroom-Zroom race car screeching around corners. Readers will love all the trouble Mel gets into just being himself. And they will love that the parents accept that someday Mel will use his ‘talent’ in some useful way when he grows up. A supportive story for a child’s ‘gifts’. Back matter includes background on Mel’s work as an adult. (Think Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Barney Rubble and 1,497 more!)
It’s a delight to read each poem celebrating a poet and written in that poet’s ‘style’. This poem collection is packed with freshness, with so many layers going on at once. Poets celebrated include Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes, twenty in all.
Using bright, bold colors and shapes, Ekua, a fine artist, uses mixed-media collages to explore the poem’s message in visual form. Each poems’ illustration is uniquely and masterfully done. This is a treat for poetry lovers and an interesting way to introduce poets to young readers.
The book includes an afterword with a few paragraphs on each poet celebrated and on the three poets who created this collection. Good energy exudes from between the covers. A book worth picking up.
Are You an Echo? is a treasure. The beautifully illustrated cover and the textured and heavy-stocked pages, make a strong presentation of Japan’s beloved children’s poet. The book includes Misuzu’s brief biography and presents 25 poems. Fifteen poems are presented in English and Japanese on beautifully illustrated two-page spreads.
Misuzu’s poems give voice to cocoons, fish and snow. Written with such innocence, they are the words of a four-year-old. Of course, they are translated from Japanese, but they have a unique flavor different from children’s poetry in America.
Unlike most girls of the early 1900’s who stopped going to school after the sixth grade, Misuzu went to school until she was seventeen. She was raised in her mother’s bookstore and she had a hard time telling the difference between real life and what she read. Everything was alive and had its own feelings. Always a thoughtful child, she was sensitive to everything around her and questioned everything. Unfortunately, extreme hardships entered into Misuzu’s life and she took her life at the age of 25. This fact is included gently in the brief biography.
A delight to the imagination, this is a book to savor, study, and enjoy again and again.
The artwork, made of water-smooth stones, will fascinate young readers and their parents. River rocks beautifully laid out, tell the story of a Syrian refugee family escaping from their now hostile home to a new, unknown place. The natural hardness of the stones poignantly illustrates to hardships the family experiences. The book includes photos showing how the artist creates the illustration. After the scene is captured in photos, it is dismantled for the next scene, for the artist can’t afford ‘glue’ to make them permanent.
The story starts out on a normal day before there was hostility. But even then, the family wasn’t free, for they could not sing their songs, dance their dances, nor pray their prayers of choice. Then rivers of people began leaving the city, until one day the family decided they must leave, too. Only what they could carry went with them. They traveled by foot, then by boat, hoping they’d be safe, for many others did not survive. After a long time, a family took them in and helped them create a safe home. The story ends on a note of peace.
Written in poems, readers learn how Ezra Jack Keats bravely pioneered books in 1962 about African-American kids’ experience in the city. Born of poor Jewish immigrant parents, Ezra faced prejudice early. Drawn to be an artist, his father supported Ezra’s interests as much as he could with leftover paints. Just when Ezra managed to get a scholarship for college, his dad died, and he had to earn a living to support his family. Enlisting in the Air Force for World War II, he made posters, booklets, charts, maps and art. After the war, he returned to the same prejudices and decided to rearrange his name. After he successfully illustrated a couple children’s books, the editors invited him to write and illustrate his own story. He created a story of Peter, a ‘brown-sugar boy’. In 1962, his book, The Snowy Day, led to six others.
The book takes you down a delightful lane sharing how Ezra came to do his books and how much kids enjoyed them. Illustrations used are similar to Ezra Jack Keats style. A great reminiscent look down memory lane for parents, a great introduction to a writer/artist for children.
Little Night Cat’s breath-taking illustrations will capture reader’s hearts in this heartfelt story of a young boy who gives away his most cherished possessions.
Tony wakes in anticipation of a big day at the animal shelter. He decides to donate his collection of stuffed animals. His mother suggests that it is not a good idea, but Tony insists the animals want to do it to help. While at the shelter, Tony is attracted to a gray tomcat, who approaches Tony and purrs. Without his animals, Tony can’t sleep that night and his mother pulls out of the closet an old, ragged stuffed animal from her childhood. He begs her to bring the stuffed animal when she returns to pick him up from school. She does not and he is crushed, until…he sees the surprise waiting for him.
Illustrations are rich in colors, rich in details, and moving. Each page is filled with life. This is the kind of art most can’t afford, but it can be found in a picture book. A book that will be read over and over again.