Wednesday, November 30, 2016
CALDECOTT CONTENDERS, Part 1
Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day helped open the door to children's books being published with diverse main characters. While the lack of such diversity remains a problem, the numbers of such books being published continues to grow. In beautiful poetic language, Andrea Davis Pinkney introduces the reader to the man behind the book. I didn't even know that Keats had changed his name until reading this book. I loved getting a glimpse into the man who dared to take a chance, who saw a picture of a cute African-American boy and hung on to it because it touched him. And then 20-years down the road using that photograph as inspiration when creating his first children's picture book. It was sweet reading about the encouragement Ezra (Jack) received from his teachers and his concerned father regarding his passion for art. Despite serious reservations about his son being able to support himself with art, he couldn't deny his son the chance to do what he loved. And Keats continued to pursue that passion despite the discrimination (he was a Jew) and life challenges that came his way. The gorgeous illustrations beautifully complement the lyrical verse that both addresses Keats life and references Peter (The Snowy Day's main character). The wonderful combination of text and illustrations makes for a book that is a work of art unto itself.
Before Morning is one of my absolutely favorite reads this year and I hope it wins an award. The book is absolutely beautiful. Beth Krommes and her scratchboard art are favorites of mine. I always have to get my hands on anything she illustrates. This particular story uses a minimum of words to share the heartfelt wish of a young girl whose mother is setting off for work as an airline employee. The girl, through a simply yet profoundly worded invocation, wishes for snow to keep her mother home. The book truly highlights the power of a young girl's wish and the soft beauty of a snow storm. Just looking at the different snowflakes scattered through the pages was enjoyable.
Jim LaMarche has long been a favorite illustrator of mine. His pictures are so gorgeous and serene, especially the nature ones. In Pond, Matt discovers a small spring in a damaged area that inspires him to try restoring the pond that once existed. With the help of his friend Pablo, and his sister, Katie, as well as his father, Matt works hard to recreate the pond. And with hard work and dedication, they succeed. I found it delightful to watch the pond come back to life. It was fun spotting the animals as they returned as well as following the kids as they restored an old boat and sailed on the pond. The illustrations I could have stared at for hours. In a book that shows the power of the human will to rebuild what people have damaged, the illustrations stand out as much as the pond does. One of my favorites for the year.
What an amazing book! Gorgeous illustrations combined with lyrical poetic text make this a great candidate for both the Caldecott Medal and the Sibert Medal, maybe even the Newbery. Fleming uses poetry to convey information about this unusual and fascinating animal that scientists still know so little about. The text, while factual, reads like a dramatic adventure story. I appreciated the fact that Fleming makes it clear what facts about the giant squid have been confirmed and those that still await discovery. Rohmann's gorgeous pictures highlight the movement and size of this mysterious animal. And the fold-out page pops out at just the right moment, giving the reader the most complete look at the animal in the whole book. This strategy creates an air of mystery that perfectly fits with the text and the many unanswered questions scientists still have about this animal. A winner of a book from cover to cover.