Posts tagged ‘Animals’

Warning Do Not Open This Book

Warning Do Not Open This Book.jpgTitle: Warning: Do Not Open This Book
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Matthew Forsythe
ISBN: 9781442435827
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2013.

Maybe you should put this book back.
You don’t want to let the monkeys out.

Meta-fiction featuring monkeys!? As readers progress through the story, not only do they let out the monkeys (who paint their own scenery to swing from) but also troublesome toucans and a very rampaging alligator. There’s only one thing left to do: set a trap and hope they end up back inside the book. With a satisfying direction on the back endpapers, children will love slamming the book shut, only to release the creatures again with the inevitable reread. The color scheme reminds me of Jon Klassen’s hat series, with rustic reds, muddy greens and mustard yellows, and very little background except for what the monkeys create. In fact, there is one monkey in possession of a hat that is reminiscent of Klassen’s, and gets stolen by a toucan. The beginning endpapers set the mood as Lemony Snicket meets Mo Willems fashion, cautioning danger ahead which children will enthusiastically ignore. Add this one to your next monkey themed event.

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion.jpgTitle: Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion
Author/Illustrator: Alex T. Smith
ISBN: 9780545914383
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2016.

This is Little Red. Today she is going to be gobbled up by a lion.
This is the Lion! (Well, that’s what he thinks is going to happen anyway.)

Little Red’s aunt wakes up covered in spots, so Little Red heads off past a handful of African animals to deliver spot medicine, her frizzy black pigtails bobbing on top of her African-American head. Upon meeting with the lion, Lion races ahead, locks Auntie Rosie in the cupboard, and attempts to fool Little Red. Little Red though is MUCH smarter than her original counterpart, and is “going to teach the naughty Lion a lesson” … by doing his hair, teeth, and changing his clothes? This debut author’s saccharine ending becomes a didactic lesson in manners, which completely undermines any attempt at ferociousness on the lion’s part. The very last page makes a last ditch effort at adding humor to the story, with mixed results. The primarily red and yellow hued illustrations add more humor than the text, with Lion’s mane being braided into multiple strands that pinwheel out of his head and are capped with little bows. In a clever use of page orientation, readers must flip the book sideways to read the text as Little Red peers into the lion’s open jaw. An uneven adaptation of the classic Red Riding Hood tale. If you’re looking for a very hungry creature, stick with Carle’s Caterpillar or Wood’s Big Hungry Bear.

Fraidyzoo

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post. This one (along with some others) never made it into the blog, so forgive me while I play catch-up.

Fraidyzoo.jpgTitle: Fraidyzoo
Author/Illustrator: Thyra Heder
ISBN: 9781419707766
Pages: 48 Pages
Publisher/Date: Harry N. Abrams, c2013

Although Little T’s excitable older sister is ready to go to the zoo, Little T is not. Remembering she was scared by something there but not remembering what, her family tries to help her identify what frightened her the last time. How do they do this? By designing two dozen different and elaborate animals out of cardboard, recyclable goods, and household items, of course! Read the book once for the story and the surprise ending, then go through the book again to truly appreciate Thyra Heder’s creations, which could serve as inspiration for your own “staycation” to the zoo.

Visitors Story Time

After losing my flash drive which had all of my past story times on it, I’ve realized that I need a better method of maintaining my digital files. Plus, after stealing utilizing other people’s brilliance in story time materials, it’s only fair to share and share alike. So without further ado, here’s my most recent story time about visitors. Are there other books that I’m forgetting that would work with this theme?

Songs:
Over the River and Through the Woods
We’re On Our Way to Grandpa’s Farm (with Puppets!)
Oh Susanna!

*Introduce Signs: Visitors and Family

Say Hello.jpgBook: Say Hello!
Author/Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
ISBN: 9780399252303
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2010.
This is a great introduction to the concept of other languages. The little girl is traveling to visit her grandmother, and says hello to a multicultural (if slightly stereotypical) cast of people in over a half dozen languages, which are later identified on the last page of the book. I had a little bit of trouble with the Arabic greeting simply because it’s the longest and I probably should have practiced a little more, but otherwise most are familiar greetings (Buenos Dias, Bonjour, Jambo, Konichiwa, etc.). Some of your patrons might recognize languages they speak at home.

Little Elliot Big Family.jpgTitle: Little Elliot Big Family
Author/Illustrator: Mike Curato
ISBN: 9780805098266
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. c2015.

I stole this book of my processor’s cart when I saw that it had arrived. Mike Curato’s beautiful illustrations return, this time with pint-sized details. Elephant’s friend Mouse leaves for a pig family reunion, leaving Elephant to spend the day by himself contemplating his lack of family, when Mouse returns for him. Don’t miss the title page, where you see mice setting up for a family reunion with seats made out of spools and toy blocks and bottle caps serving as plates. Elephant’s independence makes you think he’s an adult, but he’s just a baby as portrayed by his reaching on tiptoes and stretching his trunk up to buy a movie ticket from the classically stylized ticket booth. The movie poster is so artistic Curato even included shading that suggests the reflective glass that encases it. Elephant’s solitude is emphasized by the scenes, such as the two page spread where he is in the theater, with the lettering on one side and there’s Elephant all by himself on the adjoining page. Wonderful subtle nods to multiple cultures, with an African American man playing in the park with his children and Hebrew writing on the Delicatessen sign are a delight to discover. The theme of having a home to go to and a family, even if they aren’t related by blood, is perfect for this holiday season as people visit one another.

Ribbit.jpgTitle: Ribbit
Author: Rodrigo Folgueira
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
ISBN: 9780307981462
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., c2012.

A not-so-subtle story of the pursuit of friendship still has it’s humorous moments, and the illustrations are animated enough to engage an audience. Pig suddenly appears in the frog pond, happily Ribbit-ing away. Not knowing what to do, but jumping (pardon the pun) to the conclusion that there must be a reason, they set out to ask the beetle. When they return and find Pig no longer present, the beetle points out the obvious “Maybe he just wanted to make new friends”. All the animals get together by the end of the book in an unlikely location.

*I’ve wanted to incorporate signs into my story time for a very long time, and I finally decided to stop waiting until the right time and just start. There’s a great website lifeprint.com that allows for searching for a specific word and also gives not only an image but a short video of the word being signed in American Sign Language. A great place to start. I printed flash cards from Babysignlanguage.com and propped them up for parents to see when I instructed them on the sign.

Bee Dance

Bee DanceTitle: Bee Dance
Author/Illustrator: Rick Chrustowski
ISBN: 9780805099195
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, c2015.

I’m all a buzz (pun intended) about the cut paper collage pictures, which are full of details enhanced with pastel pencils. Just think about the time it must have taken author/illustrator Rick Chrustowski to create all those bees out of tiny pieces of intricately cut paper and those multi-hued flowers, grass, and leaves. Especially pay attention to the different layouts, including one as if you were an ant on the prairie watching the swarm of bees approach the flowers towering over you like fighter pilots at Pearl Harbor. Although this is located in nonfiction, the information is succinct enough and short enough to share with the story time crowd, especially if you pair with action movements. Don’t be afraid to shake your booty just like a bee. An author’s note provides further detail about the documented bee dance, and thanks a Cornell University professor for vetting the text. Bee-autiful!

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Gentleman Bat

We’re kicking off October with a Friday Feature! Friday Features are an irregular occurrence on my blog that include things other than book reviews, something a little extra. This might include author interviews (hint to any authors out there who want to get interviewed), bibliographies, book trailers and program ideas. While I’m not limiting myself to talk about these things just on Fridays, it will be something extra special to finish off the work week.

I’m so excited to bring you an interview I conducted a very long time ago with Piotr Parda, illustrator of The Gentleman Bat. I read it a while back and was so entranced by his artwork that I had to contact him, but I had always planned on kicking off the month of bats, costumes, and the unexplained with this Friday Feature. So thank you to Piotr Parda for answering my questions and for being so patient with the publication of his answers.

Gentleman BatTitle: The Gentleman Bat
Author: Abraham Schroeder
Illustrator: Piotr Parda
ISBN: 9780991386604
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Ripple Grove Press, c2014.

Victorian inspired costumes are donned by a bat and his beau in a nighttime stroll. Schroeder’s rhyming couplets are descriptive and set the scene and direction for Parda’s detailed illustrations. It tells the tale of a “gentleman bat” who meets his date, they dance the night away in the public square, and then return to their respective homes in the rain, under the cover of the gentleman’s umbrella. While the story is sweet, more mood then mayhem, the phenomenal pictures inevitably steal the show. After you pour over them on your own, you can glimpse at the process and find a list of Easter eggs to discover, prompting additional returns to the book. A coworker pointed out that the clothes even have slits to accommodate the bat’s long wings and their attachment to the shorter bat legs. In the final scene, where the bat is tucking himself in for the night, his nightcap has slits for his ears so it stay on his head even when he’s hanging upside down. A great book to share with a group, but also take the time to share one on one so everyone can get a close look at this detailed debut for both author and illustrator.

I had the opportunity to speak with illustrator Piotr Parda about his work and creative process:

  • First, did you do any research regarding bat anatomy before starting? How did building the model pictured on the book’s website aid in your illustration efforts?

It’s safe to say that the research was the larger (or longer) part of the work than completing the illustrations. It was mostly about finding some good solutions to the problems that come with drawing the  anthropomorphic (human shaped) bats: how to make them able to walk, dance and gesture despite of the wings being the most dominant part of their bodies but most of all what would be the best way to design some fancy clothes for them. As you know the wing membrane stretches right from the bat’s ankle all the way to the tip of its pinky. No way a bat could put on a pair of human pants! There is a huge amount of bat related material on the internet and we saw all of it. The wire toy I built for reference was supposed to help me with arranging the poses. It was like one of those little wooden dolls artists use for anatomy drawing, except bat shaped. Strangely enough, once my ‘action figure’ was ready, drawing poses came naturally and I rarely had to resort to looking at my doll-bat. It is also very helpful to me personally when I try to imagine that I myself am the creature I draw.  Since the skeleton of the bat is based on the same “template” as the human one, it wasn’t hard to imagine my fingers stretched far enough to support my weight in flight. Believe or not the wings of the bat bend the same way human fingers do. If you saw me working, you would notice that I’m looking at my fingers a lot.

  • Readers see a significant amount of everyday items created specifically for bat use, such as the scissors and the beetle pets. We also see the bats wearing glasses and monocles, a vendor selling ear plugs, and adapted clothing. What sort of collaboration was there between you and the author when designing these details?

Yes, all bats are sporting some eye-ware in our book. They are bats! Wearing earplugs might be a stretch because for a bat it would be an equivalent of a blindfold. But because the glasses help them see, maybe the earplugs would’t affect their orientation in space too much.

(EDIT from blogger: I guess it’s my mistake, as I thought the vendor was selling ear plugs. I’ll have to go back and take a third – or is it fourth – look at the book.)

Once we knew we are going to create a story about humanoid bats, the ideas and quirky jokes came down like an avalanche. Abraham would pitch some ideas to me and I would tell him if they are possible to draw – for me at least. I was sketching some of my own ideas and Abraham would tell me if it resonates with his vision or not. There is still a lot of details that could’t be drawn but we feel as if they are included in the story: there are coins with profiles of some prominent historical bats featured on them, there is a lot of different bat snacks with candied bugs and there is bat jewelry. I had to try very hard to avoid drawing bat gloves for obvious reasons. We were exchanging ideas via e-mail mostly. One time we’ve spent nearly an hour on Skype to figure out the umbrella scene. Waving umbrellas in front of the computer and taking screen shots was the best way.

  • Quite frequently books featuring smaller characters (like the Borrowers or the Littles) show every day items made from adapted materials (like a table from an empty spool). There is no such adaptation seen in your photos. The chaise lounge is a chaise lounge, and not a matchbox filled with tissue or cotton balls. Were you ever tempted to go that route, and what prompted you to make this world more “realistic”?

We eliminated this kind of depiction right from the start. Our bats, the inhabitants of the town called Batford, are the masters of their own world. Even though they might still be the size of an average vampire bat, their world matches their size, not the other way around. It’s an alternate universe in which the vampire bats evolved into talking, singing, dancing and clothes wearing individuals. There are no humans to speak of in Batford. We also decided to avoid carriages being pulled by bunnies or squirrels. Mini bat-horses would be simply too weird even in our scale of weirdness.

  • The methods and materials you use for this book are a sharp departure from the works found on your website. Was it a challenge to get the right “look”, and what impacted your final decision to use the methods you did?

When I show the books I illustrate to some of my old friends, they often exclaim: “So, this is the stuff you’re doing right now!”. Well, not exactly…

I’m used to this binary system in my work. When I feel like I’m getting tired of the disciplined and labor intensive illustration work,  I complete my deadlines and start working on my artwork ranging from building objects to creating moving images and abstract paintings. When in need of more focus, I come back to book illustration. For me there are no two projects that would require using the same medium. Why would there be? I like the idea of being “medium conscious”. For example if you were to print a book about saving trees, would you use paper or recycled plastic?

The technique for the bat book was inspired by the 1880 woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. The mood of this particular image was our basis for the technique from the beginning. Of course I haven’t had enough time or skills to work with traditional wood blocks but I used the next best thing: bamboo pen, ink and watercolor – tools often used for designing woodblock prints. There is no need to create woodblocks when faster and more accurate printing technologies are available, unless you are exploring the beauty of the old technique. I also found a lot of inspiration for my ink lines in some classic comic book titles such as “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore, but also XIX century painting, victorian prints, some old illustrated stories such as “The Wind in The Willows” and Charles Dickens’ stories. Among the inspirations you can also find Peter Bruegel the Elder, architecture and street signs of Buenos Aires, architecture of Harvard Square and Beacon Hill,  architecture of London,  American cinema (“Singing in the Rain” and “Midnight”), British movies and TV shows. Even “Doctor Who”!

  • What does your workshop look like? Can you provide a picture?

I’m afraid a picture would be of no use right now. My desk at which I usually draw and do my computer work is quite messy at the moment, so is my work table. There is no way anyone could discern a pattern from this chaos. I guess I’m overdue for some discipline and focus. One thing is for sure: I did all my bat illustrations using a special pulley mechanism enabling me to hang up side down and of course it was all done in the light of a candle.

I may have made some of it up…

  • I read on your website that it took years to complete the book. Did you, the author, or the publisher ever get impatient with the process? How did you maintain your focus throughout? I understand you are friends with the author. Did your work on the book ever strain the friendship, or vice versa?

Talking for myself here, I never got impatient with the process as much as people around me did. (I’m laughing here a little) It took a lot of patience for them to put up with this little obsession.

Even though the author’s idea originated in 2006 (?) the work itself wasn’t continuous.  We were mostly fantasizing about the bat world, exchanging ideas and sketches. There were at least two versions of more or less finished Gentleman Bat before this one. What was different about this last version was that a brand new publishing house (Ripple Grove Press) bravely decided to make our story their first book to ever be published. What helps in regaining focus the most is a deadline. Since “The Gentleman Bat” was the very first product to launch a new company I knew that my work had to be as good as it can be. But no pressure… (there would be a wink and laughing here if I was talking)

In reality working on The Gentleman Bat was very pleasant and for the first time in my career I felt like I could take as much time as I needed to do my best. I welcomed all feedback from the author, the publishers and anybody else (even my parents) because it helped in creating even better work. I guess it’s what one would expect when a group of like-minded people works on something.

  • Are you planning on doing any other books in the future?

I would like to work on more books, yes, but I guess wanting to do something can’t really be called “planning”.  The Gentleman Bat was the first book created independently after abandoning the more stressful commission based work. Until then I wasn’t even sure if I would even get back to books.

If  I ever work on more books I will try to recapture the sense of creating something that doesn’t necessarily have to become the hit of the season but rather becomes one of those worn around the edges books that can be found on many bookshelves a hundred years from now. Something you could call “an old favorite”.

—–

All pictures included in the interview are from the book’s website and I strongly encourage everyone to take a peak at large quantity of photos found there for a more in-depth behind the scenes experience. You can find out more about Piotr Parda and the other forms of artwork that he creates through his website.

Personally, I would suggest pairing Gentleman Bat with another old favorite, Stellaluna, for two very different looks at the bat world. For similar stories, readers might want to check out Lindbergh the Tale of the Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann which has equally detailed drawings of a small rodent trying to make a big impact, although his story is more traditionally set in the world of humans.

A Handful of Stars

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Handful of StarsTitle: A Handful of Stars
Author: Cynthia Lord
ISBN: 9780545700276
Pages: 184 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2015.

The only reason I ever spoke to Salma Santiago was because my dog ate her lunch. (1)

Lily’s runaway blind dog Lucky is stopped not by frantic pleas, but by migrant worker Salma’s peanut butter sandwich. Lily and Salma develop a fast friendship over their mutual love for dogs, with Salma even helping Lily fundraise to fix Lucky’s eyes. Lily can repay the favor by helping Salma prepare for the local Blueberry Queen pageant, and hopefully winning the scholarship prize. But no migrant workers have ever entered, and Lily isn’t blind to the fact that change is hard. Will either girl get what they want, or will they help each other (as the saying goes) “accept the things they cannot change”? Peppered with blueberry facts, Lord presents a story of a minor migrant worker. Didactic but not overly so due to an unexpected turn of events leading to the inevitable happy ending, it’s a simple friendship story that’s light on the details, making for a fast read.

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