Fly Away

Fly Away9781442460089_p0_v3_s260x420Fly Away

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, April 2014

Suitable for ages: 7 -10

Themes: Family Life, Brothers and sisters, Floods, Farms, Poets, Music

Book Jacket: “Family means — offering help when it’s not asked for, accepting help when you think you don’t need it, sharing joys, keeping secrets, and singing your song. Unless you’re Lucy and you can’t carry a tune. Lucy thinks she has no voice. But family means — even if you’re sure you can’t sing, you’ll be heard.”

Synopsis: Lucy and her family (and Mama’s chickens) pack into an old Volkswagen bus and travel across Minnesota to spend the summer with her Aunt Frankie in North Dakota. They time their annual visit to help Aunt Frankie plan for the flooding of the Red River.  When they reach the Red River, it is high and flowing fast.  Lucy’s mother, Maggie, remembers the dangers from her childhood.

Lucy has a secret. Everyone in her family sings, but she can’t. Her father, Boots, loves opera, her mother likes Langhorne Slim and her younger sister, Gracie, sings in a high perfect voice. When Lucy opens her mouth nothing comes out. Even her little brother Teddy, who can’t talk, can sing. He sneaks into her bedroom at night and coaxes Lucy to sing with him. His sweet “la la la’s” are pitch perfect and no one knows but Lucy. As the flood waters recede and the house is safe, another crisis occurs when Teddy turns up missing. Will Lucy find her voice and save him in a way no one else can?

Why I like this book: With the heavy rains and major flooding we are experiencing across the country, Patricia MacLachlan chooses the perfect time to release a new book for children about this phenomenon of nature. It is a story that touches the readers emotions. I love the quirky nature of Lucy’s family, the secrets, the fears, the joys and the strong family bonds that keep the family afloat during a dangerous flood.  Fly Away is poetic and written simply for young readers wanting to read longer chapter books. The plot is engaging, well-paced and full of adventure. This is a great summer read and is 107 pages.

Patricia MacLachlan is a Newberry Medalist for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. I reviewed her powerful 2013 picture book about grief and renewal, Snowflakes Fall, which was dedicated to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.  I also reviewed The Truth of Me, another middle grade novel about complicated family relationships.

 

 

 

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2

Gatsby's book1 9781616333508_p0_v1_s260x420Gatsby’s Grand Adventures:Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip

Barbara Cairns, Author

Eugene Ruble, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Cat, Art gallery, Famous paintings, Mischief

Opening:”Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery.  At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings.” 

Synopsis: In Book 1, Gatsby was an art gallery cat who loved exploring famous paintings at night. One night his long tail twitched, his nose itched and his haunches hitched as he leaped into Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip picture. He darted between the boy’s tripping and knocking four of them down. The boys chased Gatsby and he jumped out of the painting as the sun rose. Miss Annabelle was shocked to find the boys struggling to stand.  Gatsby returned repeatedly to fix the painting, but each attempt ended in another cat-astrophe.  Will Gatsby restore Homer’s painting so Miss Annabelle doesn’t think she has lost her mind?

Gatsbys 2 Book9781616333874_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.Book 2 published 2013

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Auguste Renoir’s The Apple Seller

Synopsis: Ever since Gatsby leaped into his first painting, he wanted to visit another painting.  When he discovered Renoir’s Apple Seller, his tail  twitched, his whiskers itched and his haunches hitched. He jumped into the painting after absent-minded Miss Annabelle had gone to bed. The girls seated with the apple seller in the painting are excited to see a cat and stroked Gatsby’s head. When Jasper the dog barked at Gatsby, he ran and climbed up a tree. The girls caught their dog and Gatsby leaped out of the painting after the sun had risen. Oops! He looked back and the painting was a mess.  There would be more trips to restore this picture. Poor Miss Annabelle.

Why I like these  books: Barbara Cairns books  introduce children to art in a fun way.  Both books combine art history and education with adventure and humor. Children who enjoy animals and art will learn about an artist’s work through the adventures of a mischievous cat named Gatsby. His name suits him well because he is one cat with personality. I am sure there will be many more Gatsby adventures in this series. Eugene Ruble’s lovely pastel paintings are lively and colorful. He captures the essence of both famous artists with his own style.

Resources: The author has provided information about Homer and Renoir in the back of the book, along with helpful websites for children.  For activities check out a site Cairns suggested: Art Smarts 4 Kids.  These books are a great way to introduce children to famous artwork before they visit an art gallery.

Barbara Cairns is a former K-6 school teacher, a special education teacher for the deaf, and a retired elementary school principal. You can find interesting facts about Gatsby and cats on her website.

 

A Dance Like Starlight

A Dance Like Starlight9780399252846_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbA Dance Like Starlight

Kristy Dempsey, Author

Floyd Cooper, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Fiction, Jan. 2, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Ballet dancing, African-Americans, Discrimination, Janet Collins

Opening: “Stars hardly shine in the New York City sky, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke and streetlights spreading bright halos around their pin-top faces.  It makes it hard to find a star, even harder to make a wish, the one wish that if I could just breathe it out loud to the first star of night, I might be able to believe it true.”

Synopsis:  A little girl living in Harlem in the 1950s has a dream of becoming a ballerina. Her mama works all day long and some times into the night for the ballet school, cleaning and stitching costumes for dancers. The girl spends a lot of time around costume fittings and rehearsals, watching every move and practicing in the wings. One day  the Ballet Master sees her talent and arranges for her join the lessons, even though she can’t perform onstage with white girls. When the first African-American prima ballerina Janet Collins performs at the Metropolitan Opera House, the aspiring dancer and her mother attend. The girl is inspired and realizes that she doesn’t need to wish on stars in the sky because dreams are possible.

Why I like this book: This book is a keeper for any child who has a dream of becoming a dancer, musician or artist. Kristy Dempsey ‘s lyrical text is so beautiful with lines like “It’s like Miss Collins is dancing for me, only for me showing me who I can be,” and “You don’t need stars in the sky to make your dreams come true.” Janet Collins inspires the dreams of young ballerinas everywhere, showing them that talent and hard work, not the color of their skin, lead to success. Floyd Cooper’s lively and passionate illustrations are painted in hues of brown and pink and beautifully capture the child’s dream of dancing on the stage.

Resources:   There is an author’s note at the end of the book.  One interesting note, Janet Collins danced at the Met four years before singer Marian Anderson made her debut.  Visit Kristy Dempsey’s website.  This is a good book to pair with When Marian Sang by Pamela Munoz Ryan and Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell during black history month.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Sky Color

Sky Color9780763623456_p0_v1_s260x420Sky Color

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Aug. 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Art, Creativity, Imagination,

Opening“Marisol was an artist.  She loved to draw and paint, and she even had her very own art gallery.  Not all her art hung in a gallery.  Much of it she shared with the world.”

Synopsis: Marisol’s teacher announces to the class they are going to paint a mural for the library.  Marisol wants to paint the sky.  She searches through the box of paints and can not find the color blue.  She wonders how she will paint the sky without blue paint.  On her way home from school Marisol stares out the bus window as the horizon changes.  She watches the sunset turn into night.  She realizes that maybe there are other ways to paint the color of the sky.

Why I like this book:  Another beautiful and original story about imagination and creativity from author/illustrator Peter Reynolds, who shows his young readers that the sky is the limit when you dream big and think outside of the box.  He encourages children to open their eyes and really look at their surroundings.  Is the sky really blue, the grass green, the sea blue and the moon white?  This is a great way to encourage kids to be daring and experiment with a  variety of colors.  What a great lesson in creativity for children.  This is the third story in his Creatrilogy series, which also includes The Dot and Ish.  Visit Peter H. Reynolds at his website.

Resource:  The website OMazing Kids  has some terrific ideas about encouraging creativity using many of Peter Reynold’s books.  Check out this July 6 post Inspiring Kids Creativity with Books, Art and Movement.

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The Museum

The Museum9781419705946_p0_v1_s260x420

The Museum

Susan Verde, Author

Peter Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams, Henry N., Inc., Mar. 12, 2013 (Release)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes:  Museums, Art Appreciation,  Creativity, Imagination

Opening“When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart.  I cannot stifle my reaction.  My body just goes into action.”

Synopsis:  A spirited girl visits a museum and is moved by the artwork she views.  Much to her delight, each painting evokes a different emotional response.  There is an unexpected encounter around every corner.  She twirls to the swirls in  Van Gogh’s Starry Night.   She strikes ballet poses, yoga postures, skips through fields of flowers and pauses to ponder Rodin’s The Thinker.  Picasso turns her mood blue and sad.  Cezanne’s apples makes her tummy rumble.  Miro’s lines and squiggles sends here into fits of giggles.  Munch’s painting evokes a shriek.   My favorite moment is when she stands before Ryman’s stark white canvas.  Puzzled and wondering if it’s a joke, she closes her eyes and imagines a beautiful creation in her own mind.  When the museum closes and it is time to leave, she comes to an important realization about the artwork.

Why I like this bookThe Museum is a creative, moving and enchanting story written in rhyme.  Debut author Susan Verde shows art as a personal and liberating experience for her inquisitive barefoot museum patron.  Peter H. Reynolds’s illustrations are lively, dramatic, whimsical, colorful and complement the narrative.  The girl dances across the pages.  A lot of teamwork went into bringing this endearing story to life.  Visit Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds at their websites.  Reynolds is the award-winning author and illustrator of The Dot, North Star and Ish.

Resources:  Both Susan and Peter hope their story inspires children to visit their local art museum and notice how art makes them feel.   Show your children pieces of famous artwork, give them a pad of  paper and encourage them to draw a picture about how a painting or sculpture makes them feel.  Check out the Educators Guide  for The Museum on Susan’s website.

Book Launch Party:  Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds will celebrate the launch of The Museum on Saturday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at The Blue Bunny, 577 High Street, Dedham Square, Dedham, MA.   You are invited to stop by and meet them.  They will be signing the first copies of their book.

Interview Mar. 11:  On Monday, Beth Stilborn will interview Susan Verde on her blog, By Word of Beth.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Song of Sahel Event Launched

Today is a special day for the members of a blog I follow On the Plum Tree, as they respond to a crisis in Africa with the launch of a book, music and art.   Dr. Niamh Clune and a group of very talented international poets, artists, photographers and musicians have created a beautiful anthology,  Song of Sahel, which can be purchased on Amazon.

This labor of love was inspired after Dr. Clune’s husband was asked to respond to a crisis last spring in Niger to set up refugee camps to cope with those pouring across the Malian border in hopes of escaping the civil war.

She began to share her husband’s experiences in Sahel with members of Plum Tree.  Many were inspired to write poetry about the pain and suffering that was occurring in Sahel.   The response from the group nudged Dr. Clune to make a call across her social networks for poets, musicians, artists and photographers to submit a piece of work about the poverty, famine, and disease that was occurring in Sahel.  The response was remarkable.  The project grew wings and the Song of Sahel took flight.

Today is the official launch of Song of Sahel, which will run for 48 hours.   This is an important global project, as I have seen some of the poetry, artwork and listened to the music of a very talented group of artists.  Join them on Facebook where event will be hosted on Plum Tree Books.   The music will be available for download at Juno.  Click here to visit the beautiful art auction .   All proceeds from the sales will go directly to a very worthy cause — SOS Sahel. 

I hope you will take time to visit the site.  Song of Sahel is inspiring and a  feast for the soul.

The Dot — International Dot Day

The Dot

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2003

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Art, Imagination, Self-Confidence, Inspiration

Opening/Synopsis “Art class was over, but Vashti sat glued to her chair.  Her paper was empty.  Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper.  ‘Ah! A polar bear in a snow storm,’ she said. ‘  ‘Very funny!  said Vashti.  ‘I just can’t draw!”  Her teacher asks Vashti to just make a mark.  Vashti angrily gives the paper a jab.  She asks Vashti to sign it.  One morning Vashti walks into art class and sees her signed “dot” hanging in a frame behind the teacher’s desk.  She decides she can make a better dot and begins to paint dots of all colors and sizes.

Why I love this book:  Peter Reynolds has written and illustrated an inspirational book that encourages children of all ages to be brave and “make their mark.”  There is no right or wrong way.   He wants kids of all ages to imagine, dream and create.  And this week over 500,000 children in all 50 states and around the globe  will be participating in International Dot Day, whether in their classrooms or at home.   Many kidlit bloggers will be making their dots this week.  My dot is below.

Resources:  Create your own dot.  Visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.   There also is a teacher’s resource guide for Reynold’s The Dot and Ish.  Below is the dot I created on my iPad with ArtRage.  Check out the dot made by my colleague  Beth Stilborn , who also encouraged bloggers to post their dots.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

My Dot

Patricia Howe Tilton 2012