Author Archives: neelysnews

About neelysnews

Professor of Children's Literature

Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: They Say Blue

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For this week’s “Marvelous New Picture Book Monday” I selected They Say Blue illustrated and written by Jillian Tamaki. I was immediately attracted to this new picture book due its vibrant and abstract cover. Not only is the cover itself unique but there is also no text, not even a title, on the cover further pulling the reader to open the book. This unique start to the book is indicative of the powerful effect the illustrations have in They Say Blue.

The first page of text in the book is an abstract blue background with only the line “They say blue is the color of sky.” For a younger child, this text is simple and easy to understand. For an older child or an adult this simple text and abstract yet plain background allows room for inferences. The following pages introduce the protagonist, a young Asian girl, exploring the abstractness and colors of her surroundings. Through the introduction of a character, the illustrations remain abstract and vibrant but tell a story that a young reader can understand while still leaving room for an older reader or adult to interpret.

 

One of the elements of this picture book that makes it so marvelous is the orientation of the illustrations on the page. The illustrations and text are positioned as a passage of time across the page, showing movement and travel. This feature enables a younger reader to follow the book without reading the text, and truly maximizes the space on the page. Another key element in this book is the use of perception. She shows how things change and can be perceived differently in different settings as well as have different uses. I think this component is particularly important for a young child. For example, they show how water can appear in so many different forms is important for providing children with complex understandings of the world around them.

 

Another element of the book I found excellent was the use of an Asian protagonist. Minority groups are typically underrepresented in children’s literature. However, the book does not focus on Asian values but rather uses this as a point of making this book multicultural literature. In addition, in the image of a whole class many different races are represented.

They say Blue is an excellent balance of telling a story while being informative and intriguing for children of all ages, and adults too. The vivid colors and imagery tell a story of their own and keep the reader looking at the page. In addition, the use of the full page shows a journey and the passing of time. The images flow from one page to the next and serve many purposes. For example, the strings of the girl’s hair are the same texture as the birds in the sky, showing the universality of the world. This picture book shows the complexity and abstractness of the environment around us through vivid imagery and concise text, making it a great picture book for readers of all ages.

Macie Wasserberger

 

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Marvelous New Picture Books Monday: I Like, I Don’t Like

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For today’s Marvelous New Picture Book, I decided to review the book I Like, I Don’t Like by Anna Baccelliere. This was a short, simple, but meaningful read.

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It was an extremely simplistic book in terms of language, the entire book was simply made up of the phrases “I like..” and “I don’t like..” but the images gave a deeper meaning beyond a simple preference in items. For example, from the first page, you can start to ge an idea of what kind of book this is.

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The first image depicts a young girl, playing with some slightly oversized shoes with a smile on her face, while the second depicts a girl cleaning a gigantic shoe with none on her own feet and a tired expression. Although the second image is slightly exaggerated, these two pages show how two children of the same age could be thinking entirely different things. For the girl on the left, shoes are just another part of her dress-up, something from her mom’s closet that she can take out when she’s playing pretend. For the girl on the right, shoes are what she has to deal with to survive, shoes signify work, rather than play.

The book continues to follow this format with several other scenarios. Although the first set of photos depicts two girls with similar but different objects, there are several parallels between objects that some children are enjoying while being the product of another child’s labor.

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It also shows some parallels between what some children may consider for when thinking about same word. For example, the page about bricks showed both Lego bricks and red bricks, showing not only the difference between playing and working, but even how the same term could be understood differently by different kids. ildl2
The art for this book was done by a team of two people, and I really loved how creative they were with the art. Everything that was depicted was really clear, and gave vision to the simple phrases that the book consisted of. Additionally, the very realistic faces for the children made it more impactful because it seemed all that more real.

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The last page is pretty straightforward, showing a boy with a toy hammer and his little tool set looking towards a boy who’s holding a real hammer and helping to fix a real vehicle. It’s striking because the boys are dressed in similar colors, in similar poses, and holding similar looking tools, but are in radically different situations.

One final thing I really enjoyed about this book is that the author provides information about child labor as well as mentioning organizations that people can refer to in order to help make a change.

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Although there aren’t that many words, there are so many conversations to be had with this book, and the immaculate details make it a good read to have a discussion with.

I think that this kind of book is important to read with children because child labor is a topic that isn’t really discussed, even amongst adults. It’s important to realize that not all children around the world get a good childhood, and by informing the children of today that these sorts of things are still happening, it encourages them to make change for the children of tomorrow.

-Hannah Park

Free Friday: MOON A Peak-Through Picture Book

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MOON is written and illustrated by Brita Treckentrup. On the cover, it is described as “A Peek-Through Picture Book.” This description refers to the partial moon cutout on the cover that continues in vary stages of full-ness throughout the story to demonstrate the real-life phases of the moon. It is focused in outdoor setting and animals that support the evening movement of the moon. The first pages set the stage for discovery by asking, “Have you ever wondered why The moon shines in the nighttime sky? How every creature, plant, and tree Is subject to its mystery?”

The story describes a cool evening and the light that the moon shines over it. The pages are primarily dark colors, with pops of color in flowers or animals, and ESPECIALLY the bright yellow moon that is seen on each page through a crescent cutout of varying sizes.

 

The text goes through these moon phases telling how the moon looks and what it shines down on in each spread. There are insights to natural wonders such as the northern lights above the puffins, birds migrating south to the warmth, turtles swimming to land to lay their eggs, the ocean waves ebbing and flowing because of the moon, even a moonbow appears in the mountains. Many other natural occurrences such as mice hunting, parrots swooping, and penguins huddling take place as well.

It is important to note that the story doesn’t exclusively cover dark backdrops, there are two spreads that are scenes of snowy nights. They are much lighter thanks to the reflective nature of snow and ice and the moon itself and is a great way to show children how moonlit nights can look different than how they would expect or how they might’ve experienced.

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It is also great to show that some animals are nocturnal or might not sleep the entire time the sun is out of view. Most animals in the story are active, making use of the moon’s light and it could be a fun discussion into those animals and cycles. Despite the fairly simple text and straight forward images, there is much room for discussion and commentary.

As a hard cover book with a cutout, it is immediately appealing, children will want to outline the figure with their fingertips and thanks to the heavy pages inside as well, they can touch each stage of the moon while reading. This is not a board book so it is meant for gentler hands but would be a great book as a read-along considering the text is a sizable, easy to read, black font, on a light background located in its own space at the bottom of each page. Despite being a darkly illustrated book, the text is extremely easy to follow alone. Some of the animals and lurking shadows that appear earlier in the story reappear later on and add to the fun of searching-in-the-dark-by-the-light-of-the-moon idea that this story plays with.

I would appreciate this as a bedtime read to slow down the mood and heavily emphasize the nighttime concept BUT it is a beautiful story that could be used in many settings.

by Andrea Runnells

 

 

Traditional Thursday: If I Ran the Zoo

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When thinking about traditional children’s literature, it’s hard to think of a more consistent staple than Dr. Seuss. Certainly, there are many books that a great number of children have read or been read, but everyone I met has had the pleasure of experiencing at least one Dr. Seuss book. Though not perhaps one of his best known, I really enjoy his book, If I Ran the Zoo.

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This is a silly book that encourages children to be imaginative when thinking about their future occupations and in crafting their dreams.

The book starts off with a little Gerald McGrew, who has some awfully grand ideas of how he wants to run the zoo. One thing to note that I couldn’t help but notice was the splash of color that was the lion cage, the blue. This blue, as soon as little Gerald gets to imagining, transforms into a radiant yellow. This is a little detail that I noticed later on as well.

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I think one of the best parts of this book are how fun these totally made up animals are that inhabit his dream zoo. Another detail I really enjoyed about this book was that all of the illustrations were made with solely primary colors. It gives a feeling of the whole book being interconnected, especially when we arrive towards the end of the book and see the animals all grouped together on one page. That page is like a treasure hunt, letting you think back to the whole story and maybe even go on a small hunt to find the animals from the previous pages in the new zoo. 

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As I mentioned before, I noticed the cage color a final time on the last page, where even though the other man is still in charge of the zoo, the cage has lit up yellow as though all suggesting that all of Gerald’s dreams are a possibility when it comes to how the zoo will be run in the future.

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Overall, this book is a whimsical read to share with children. With plenty of rhyming, and the ever-present joy of Dr. Seuss’s silly made up words, it’s definitely a book that will get kids repeating back silly animal names to you. It’s definitely the kind of book I would consider reading any time, and I thin kit encourages children to dream big !
-Hannah Park 

 

Traditional Thursday: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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For traditional Thursday, I chose to write about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz. This is a traditional children’s book because it was first published in 1972 but is still popular today. Children today are still familiar with the book and a movie version of the story was released in 2014.

This traditional children’s book has remained prevalent across so many years mainly due to the fact that Alexander is such a relatable character for children; and really people of all ages. The idea of having a day where nothing seems to be going right is something that everyone has experienced. The story acts as a mirror for whoever is reading it. The book even points out this fact at the end. Alex’s mother says that there is always going to be days when things do not go right and that is true for everyone, even in Australia. No matter what is going on in your day, there are other people experiencing bad days too. Children reading this book will learn that a bad day does not mean a bad life. The message of this story is that even on a day when everything goes wrong, you will go to bed and wake up to a brand new day where everything can go right.

 

The illustrations increase the ability to envision yourself in Alexander’s day. When showing events, Cruz covers the entire page in order to draw the reader into the story. Some of the pictures cover the whole spread of two pages. The other types of images are of only Alexander with no background. These emphasize his emotions throughout the day and allow the reader to further relate to Alexander. The illustrations also add to the traditional aspect of the book. The pictures are black and white but still show a lot of shading. Cruz is able to convey detail in facial expressions and settings by simply using black ink.

As a young adult reflecting back on the children’s books I read when I was younger, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was one of my favorites. In all honesty, this was partly because of I have an older brother named Alexander who had a striking resemblance to the book character. Mainly though, I enjoyed this book because I could relate to the idea of having a bad day and this book made me realize bad days were not actually that bad.

Isabel Lorenz

Winner Wednesday: Grand Canyon

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For winner Wednesday, I have chosen the book Grand Canyon which was written and illustrated by Jason Chin. This book received the Caldecott Medal Honors in 2018 and it is quite obvious why. The illustrations in this book transport the reader to the Grand Canyon. The pictures are realistic and captivating. The colors reflect those of the Arizona landscape. Some of the pictures are in boxes that give them the appearance of a photograph. The borders then provide information on the Grand Canyon ranging from scientific facts to different animals present in the region.

In addition to the beautiful and realistic illustrations, this book is a great informational picture book for people of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot of new information about the Grand Canyon. This book would be a good teaching tool for students. Simply reading the text offers a lot of information about the Grand Canyon. As previously mentioned, the borders show the different layers of the canyon and how the layers were molded by the river. Other pages include pictures and names of animals that live in the multiple environments in and around the canyon. The back of the book includes a lot of additional information about the Grand Canyon along with references and resources.

 

My favorite aspect of the book is the use of cut-outs. As the main character is walking through the canyon she notices different fossils and textures in the terrain. This texture is shown in a cutout( I circled the cutouts in the images). The next page transports the child back in time to show what created the different aspects. This is a fun and interactive element for children reading the book. It also represents how the past affects the current landscape and how each small portion of the Grand Canyon was formed. The pictures set in the present are in boxes while the pictures that bring the character back to the past are full pages without a gutter to fully immerse the reader into the past that created the wonder of the Grand Canyon. This book could be read independently by children. Even younger children would be able to learn a lot from just the pictures and the multiple sources of information. I would use this in a classroom to teach about the Grand Canyon and the overall process of earth formations. The addition of teacher support would greatly further a child’s ability to acquire new knowledge from the book.

I chose Grand Canyon for winner Wednesday because even though the Caldecott award is for illustrations, this book is so much more than beautiful images. The author intentionally created this book to expose children to new information in an interesting way. This intentionality has made this book more powerful and informative than most traditional children’s books. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.

Isabel Lorenz

Trendy Tuesday: My Beautiful Birds

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For Trendy Tuesday this week, I have chosen the book My Beautiful Birds written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. I was first drawn to the book due to the illustration of the boy and the birds on the front cover. The mixed media technique that is used conveys realism and a very unique texture that I have never seen in a book before. The cover attracts the reader without revealing anything about the themes that are present in this children’s book.

The book immediately starts with a young boy, Sami, and his family walking away from a scene of destruction. The same techniques used on the cover become even more powerful inside the book as Rizzo depicts the journey of this young boy and his family. The texture makes the images of their old home being destroyed and the terrain they must travel through even more jarring. These images strongly support and add emotion to the words. Not only does the technique used in the images help convey meaning and realism, they would intrigue children of all ages. The images demand attention which further adds to the storyline and overall message of the book.

 

 

I previously mentioned the texture of the birds on the cover of this book. This is the first introduction of the central theme of the book. Often times, birds represent freedom and hope; this is no different in My Beautiful Birds. However, instead of showing up at the end, as is typical, the beautiful birds reflect the absence and presence of these core ideas within the young boy. As his family are forced to leave their home, the boy thinks about his birds. The birds were present when at the boy’s home, a place where he felt safe and secure.

Now that they are on this journey, the birds are gone. The boy has lost hope and his sense of freedom. He longs for the birds, he longs to regain a sense of belonging. As the boy and his family spend more time at the camp, the children begin to play, learn, and do arts and crafts. The boy starts to feel happier and decides to paint an image of his birds. Suddenly, the boy feels hopeless again. The imagery for this is one of the strongest in the book as his painting of a cheerful blue bird becomes covered in harsh, black paint.

The boy becomes upset and runs to the top of a hill. It is there, where he has the realization that even though he is in a new place, the sky is still his sky. He finds peace in the sky, it is not a reminder of his old home but an indicator that even though things are different there is still beauty in the world that he can appreciate. The images of birds begin to appear in the sky because after this realization, he is able to regain hope. More and more birds begin to come as his sense of hope continues to grow.

This is a trendy Tuesday book because we need to continue the shift towards exposing children to unfamiliar cultures and to real-world events. This book is a perfect example of a children’s story that can start of discussion of topics that have previously been deemed too difficult for young children. The refugee crisis is such a prominent issue that can too easily be ignored. Children around the world are experiencing these realities that are foreign to children in the US. My Beautiful Birds addresses this topic in an appropriate way and exemplifies the message that even when hope is seemingly lost forever, it can be found again.

Isabel Lorenz