Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Story About Hope

Nothing is permanent, not even loneliness. Where there is hope, there is always possibility—the possibility of love and the possibility of friendship.

Pandora, a picture book written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull, is a book about hope. Pandora, the main character, lives alone in what looks like a junkyard full of broken and forgotten objects. Pandora’s heart, however, is not vanquished by her lonely and barren existence. She makes a cozy home and goes about sewing abandoned teddy bears and making wind chimes out of old glass bottles. One day, a little injured blue bird falls outside her window and Pandora’s life begins to change. She not only makes a friend, her generosity ends up bringing her a whole new world full of life that she never expected.

The book jacket says Pandora is about “renewal and the power of hope, friendship, and nature”. I agree, but I would like to add that it is about the magic that can be reaped by sowing genuine hope and friendship even when it might seem pointless.

At first, Pandora and the blue bird bring the only color to the surroundings, but that changes as the little blue bird’s tiny gifts begin to bear fruit.

Watch the author discuss her book here:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Story About a Gumshoe

An investigator. A criminal. A woman. A complex plot. A city. Who doesn’t love a noir classic.

You’ve heard of fractured fairy tales. 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, a picture book written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, is a fractured punchline. A layered “true story” based on the well-known children’s joke, “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” The main character is a Private I who comes to the aid of 6. 6 believes that 7 ate 9 and is now after him. Private I follows the trail of clues until he finds the real culprit whose nefarious motives are revealed in dramatic fashion.

7 Ate 9 is a versatile book. Young children will find it funny as they are introduced to the forms of the different numbers. Older children will be entertained by the double entendres such as “numbers…they are always stuck in a problem” and the many math terms sprinkled throughout the story. All kids will get caught up in figuring out whodunit.

Watch the book trailer here:

I confess, I read this book in Humphrey Bogart's voice. It's a creative adaptation of the old gumshoe classic films for children, which just adds another layer for adults to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Story About a Plan

Sometimes an outsider can see the flaws in your plan more clearly than you do. You know the guy. The one you sort of dismiss because he is small or quiet or has different ideas. That’s the guy (or girl) who might just be thinking out of the box.

Shh! We Have a Plan, a picture book written and illustrated by Chris Haughton, is about three guys who have a plan and a fourth guy who clearly sees that their efforts are futile. All four of them are decked out in their best stealthy black gear. The three guys with the plan are each carrying a net. Their objective is to catch a pretty red bird perched on a branch jutting from the ground. The fourth guy, the small one, has no net and just seems to be tagging along looking skeptical. The three guys with the plan are pretty sure they understand the situation much better than the small guy. They don’t quite see the flaw in their plan.

There are very few words in this story. Most of the the story is told through inference from the illustrations. The small guy’s methods meet with much more success that the three smart guys, but they don’t seem to see it. They keep repeating the same mistakes.

The juxtaposition of the the smart guys’ actions with the small guy’s actions create the comedy in the story. The reader sees the proceedings through the eyes of the small guy who knows a whole lot more than he says. He doesn’t feel the need to capture the bird in a net. He really just seems to want to be friends with it. He might even have a cunning plan of his own to help the bird and thwart his companions. Do they finally get the message? The look on small guy’s face on the last page tells it all.

See the book trailer here: