Apr 13, 2015

No Age Limit on Heroism: DOYLI TO THE RESCUE

I feel so blessed and secure in my life that I rarely find myself longing for additional funds. I do, though, wish I had the means to contribute more to the many worthy causes that my modest means allow me to support. As it is, I do my due-diligence and reassure myself that each and every dollar pledged will be put to maximum benefit for the intended recipients.

Crowd-funding of various projects and people has become commonplace. The result, in my opinion, is that appeals need to be scrutinized thoroughly before any of MY funds make their way into the hands of others. Vetting those appeals, even the most heart-tugging, can present serious challenges.

Crickhollow Books, April 22, 2015
I was both confident and excited to offer my small support to the recently successful Kickstarter publishing project,  DOYLI TO THE RESCUE: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon, photos and text by Cathleen Burnham. 
The result...TA-DA!  
The book will release on EARTH DAY, APRIL 22, 2015. I received my own copy in advance to review.
Some background first. Cathleen Burnham is an experienced travel and wildlife photojournalist.This title is one of a six-book-series she's creating for the WORLD ASSOCIATION OF KIDS AND ANIMALS. 

On a family vacation to the Amazon and subsequent travels she became aware of the fragile state of many animal species and their habitats, often in areas with limited financial resources.  She encountered individual young people who are making small-scale but powerful contributions to protect some of those threatened species. The WAKA Books program is Burnham's effort to share their stories and inspire other young people around the world to seek and pursue their own projects to save our planet.
This excerpt from the author note in the back of the book describes her mission:
"This story is a seed. Maybe you and your friends and family can come up with 
something YOU can do, in a small way, to help protect other creatures 
who might need a helping hand."

My thoughts, now that I've examined the book closely:
DOYLI TO THE RESCUE: SAVING BABY MONKEYS IN THE AMAZON is a winner by any measure. The target audience is aptly described as fourth- and fifth-graders, who will find that the photos and text are not only accessible but intriguing and appealing. 
Doyli's smiling face will make her feel like a friend from the start. Her life is one that could appear alien and distant, but instead reveals relationships, activities, and interests that are both familiar and exciting.
Burnham's photos are highly professional but also have a candid quality that suggest a family photo album. Doyli's engagement in a wider community, including school, the marketplace, and interactions with various friends and relatives encourage high level discussions with readers to compare and contrast Doyli's life to their own. 
The WAKA site indicates teaching guides and other resources are in the offing, as are subsequent titles in this series. Guides aren't necessary to begin using this immediately. The book design offers every aspect of nonfiction reading described in the Common Core State Standards,including picture captions, maps, clearly labeled species, specific vocabulary  and back matter. 
This book will definitely jumpstart further research into global locations, biomes, endangered species, interventions, and local issues.
In my opinion this book will intrigue and interest readers of any age. I look forward to meeting the young heroes in titles yet to come.

Please share the info with friends who like positive, uplighting books for kids: 

Apr 4, 2015

And the Themes Roll On: April is POETRY MONTH

Candlewick Press, 2015

Poetry, when well done, is a form of prayer. 
It inspires, it lifts the spirit.

It celebrates and laments.
It reveals our humanity
and unites our souls.

Its words, sounds, and  rhythms
set the pace of our pulse. 

Poems make me erupt 
in silly giggles,
gasps, sighs, 
and weeping. 

Poetry's forms are 
as rigid as haiku 
and as free as stories in verse.

All this and more in poems, and only a month to celebrate?

I could use more than a month to sing the praises of just one poet, Helen Frost, and her recent release, SWEEP UP THE SUN. The photographic illustrations by Rick Lieder should, in my opinion, make this title a front runner for Caldecott consideration in 2016

Frost wields poetry like a paintbrush in generating "master-pieces" in the truest sense of the word. I've read each and every book she's written and marveled at her capacity to make even the most complex and challenging poetic forms read like spontaneous storytelling. In each she bends her words to forms that serve the themes, moods, and characters. 

In SWEEP UP THE SUN I transcribed the entire text in an effort to understand Frost's alchemy. The entire text is ninety-eight words. 
I counted by hand, used digital tools, rechecked my transcription. 
Yep. Only ninety-eight words. 
Each is a gem, exquisite in its setting.
I want desperately to quote the introductory passage that provides the titles, but that requires thirty-four words of her total text. I won't cite a third of a book, even with quotations!
I'll stretch this far:
"Rise into the air
On the strength of your wings
Go out to play in the sky, "
Breathtaking, right?
Now imagine equally breathtaking photography that captures some of the most remarkable images of birds in flight that you'll ever see. 
No, you can't imagine his magnificent images -- the action, the lighting, the colors.
Just get your hands on this book as soon as possible and read it.
And again.

As much as I am enthralled by this book, I continue my boycott of naming "favorites" in titles or authors, because so many have done so much so well for so many centuries. 
To demonstrate that, I'll close with several links to other posts that in turn link, and link, and link. Follow those varied trails to savor the richness of poetry and share your own favorites, widely and often.
From the Latin@s in Kid Lit post: Poetry from their archives.
KIDLitoSphere Central: A link to links

Mar 17, 2015

A Gumbo of Goodies...

In the nearly four-week lull since I last posted here, I've read quite a few picture books, each of which deserved enough attention for its own post. Since I haven't managed to find the time for that, despite my best intentions, I decided to share a patchwork of reflections in a single post.

(Don't bother looking for a central theme or brilliant concluding comment. Just know that  I wouldn't be pushing the pause button on my life to post these titles if they weren't worth your attention. Come on, folks, if I can make time to share these with you, you can find the time to check them out, right? And the sooner the better!)

So, here goes, in no particular order, rhyme, or reason...

Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant. 
Stereotyping and gender expectations result in bullying and changing a happy, school-loving kid into one with school avoidance and stomach aches. 
This is a strong story that emphasizes the sensory/creative impulses of a very young boy rather than gender identity. When Becky snipped, "Boys don't wear dresses," Morris confidently replies "This boy does." It's really about an unconventional thinker in a a rigidly conforming culture. This will pair well with Fleischman's WESLANDIA for older readers.

Wolfie the Bunny, by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHoro.
The synopsis on Goodreads says:
"Families of all kinds will delight in this sweet tale of new babies, sibling rivalry, bravery, unconditional love...and veggies!
The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can--and might--eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it's Wolfie who's threatened, can Dot save the day?"
I looked forward to reading this, but I'll admit I'd made some predictions about how the story would play out, based on the many and glowing reviews I read before its release. Once I was able to get my hands on a copy and read it for myself (several times through) I was delighted to find it held surprises of the happiest kind. It is going to delight young readers/listeners, and the adults who read t them as well. What's more, it serves as a shining example to would-be writers of the very best that picture books have to offer. 
What may seem like a simplistic or predictable premise instead plays out on multiple levels of meaning and JUST PLAIN FUN!!

Right in step with "JUST PLAIN FUN" comes 
I'm My Own Dog, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stone. 
Goodreads offer this synopsis:
"Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion."

I say it's outright entertaining, but also a master class in irony/word play, voice, point-of-view, subtext, and characterization. Kids will love it, and so will everyone else.

So, that's it for now, but I'll continue reading and making notes and return with more, sooner rather than later. That's a promise.

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.