I have never seen less threatening monsters than in Monsters Love Colors. That’s a plus, because this book is really a celebration of color and sound, with the monsters just cute actors in the play. Every page is filled with blinding primary colors, swirling shapes and lines, and exuberant words that demand to be read aloud—“mish, mash, squish, squash, splash!” Color is splattered across every page, the words are in wildly different sizes and degrees of boldness, and even the monsters are in varied sizes, shapes and colors. The monsters also have extremely expressive faces, showing excitement, curiosity, joy and wonder at all the marvelous colors they can create.
As an adult, I found the book entertaining. It made my day a little brighter, figuratively and literally. Younger children, especially when read to aloud or encouraged to read it aloud themselves, will get the same burst of energy, I would imagine, magnified by their own natural exuberance. This is a book to read after nap time, not before. You learn a little about how colors combine to make other colors, but beyond that this is just a book to ENJOY, visually and verbally.
—Steve Mudd, author
At last, Oliver Jeffers has created a picture book that addresses children with too much, instead of not enough.
Previously, “problem” or “issue” books have shown children needing additional character. More courage or related virtue. In This Moose Belongs to Me, Jeffers introduces readers to Wilfred, a boy of excess.
As in excess confidence. Some might say bossiness, even arrogance.
Wilfred has met a moose. By divine right, eminent domain or maybe even calling dibbies, somehow, Wilfred insists he’s owner of the antlered animal.
“The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW that it was meant to be his,” Jeffers writes.
Of course, Wilfred employs one of the first rules of kid-dom. Name your find. He dubs the moose “Marcel.” No thought is given to whether this moose has a previously-existing name.
Wilfred’s overconfidence faces a crossroads upon a long walk with Marcel. A blue-haired “old lady” appears. She greets the moose, calling him by a different name!
Ultimately, Wilfred learns that his moose acquaintance views their relationship differently. Nonetheless, the boy comes up with a face-saving compromise that saved the friendship and Wilfred’s pride.
On a surface level, author Jeffers addresses the issues of respecting the wild nature of any creature. Young listeners might recall how they overdid taking charge of a relationship with a sibling or first friend, setting endless ground rules. In case a certain moose forgot, Wilfred even numbers his demands.
Look deeper at what illustrator Jeffers offers. On the dedication page, he adds: ”The art for this book was made from a mishmash of oil painting onto old linotype and painted landscapes, and a bit of technical wizardry thrown in the mix here and there.”
On most pages, Jeffers inserts his characters into vintage artworks. We see that Wilfred and “Marcel” have invited themselves into other scenes where they might not really belong. Jeffers makes it work beautifully, contrasting the behavior of moose and boy in such incongruity.
Then again, it’s clear that Wilfred’s imagination is hitting on all cylinders. Why not imagine a blissful (if one-sided) life with a pet moose taking place in someone else’s vintage paintings?
Don’t miss the last page. An unnamed clergyman stakes claim to the moose, insisting the animal is a third, different personality.
This Moose Belongs to Me would entertain and inspire any age reader suffering from a case of well-meaning self-centeredness.
—Tom Owens, author
Reading. Being read to. Author Amy Hest shows all the delights a book can offer in The Reader.
A child and best-friend dog decide to enjoy a winter day on a sled. Their destination is “the top of the world.”
Not until page 4 does Hest unleash a “his” clue in her spare, sweet story. The bundled-up main character, the “reader,” could be boy or girl.
Suddenly, the story picks up steam, much like the sled’s downhill descent. A double-page spread proclaims “it’s time.” A suitcase is opened.
Grown-up readers might expect Hest, a three-time winner of the Christopher Award, to produce a magic lamp or other surprise. Instead, she unveils something just as powerful—a book. As the reader reads, children may be taken aback.
Prepare for the sensation of looking deep into the multi-mirrored department store dressing room. That‘s the lure of the featured book, titled “Two Good Friends.” We never see those pages, only the reactions that the pages bring. This is a tribute to the read-aloud experience. A dog, child plus their book. You could call it “Three Good Friends.”
Illustrator Lauren Castillo shines with her ink-and-watercolor depictions of the story. Anyone who liked the illustrations from What Happens on Wednesdays needs to check out Castillo’s versatility. Swoon over her double-page spread showing white letters fluttering down amidst snowflakes while the boy reads to the dog. Somewhere, Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day) is smiling down over this visual storytelling.
Fretting parents may protest a bit over the storyline. What if every child experiencing The Reader drags his or her complete library out into a blizzard? Books might get ruined.
This is not a how-to primer for kids. It’s a fantasy. That hilltop might not be the top of the world to most adults. However, it’s high enough to please the two stars of this tale.
Here is a wonderful imagining of the feeling one gets from reading the right book at the right time. This is a tale about the joy of sharing books. Any young reader will want to be The Reader.
—Tom Owens, author
Perhaps I’m suffering from the curse of primacy: the tendency to cling to, even love, what one knows first.
I first experienced The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in its form as an Academy Award-winning animated short. It is, in fact, a silent film—with no sub-titles—doubling the paradox that a paean to books avoids not only pages, but words themselves, right down to the sound of them.
And this is why the film so stunningly succeeds.
The incarnation of Morris Lessmore as a book—which seems so very logical—is, in fact, less effective. And why? Irony of ironies, because it has words.
William Joyce, a virtually undisputed master, is still himself. He chooses words, edits, interprets the world as William Joyce—he has no choice. When we read his words, we see William Joyce’s world.
Ah, but when we see the film, we can think our own words—or not. Maybe we can just feel.
I can’t help but wish that this book had no words, so that we might do the same.
For books with words are a paradox, too. The point of a book is to go beyond words. Every author is him-or herself. Every reader must look past the writer to get to the story, look past words to get to their meaning. Words are like trees that fall in the woods; they don’t make a sound if no one’s there to hear them.
An image is more like a flower. It just blooms, and minds its own glorious business.
Many images in the book seem to be taken directly from the film. Some delightful examples are people shown in black and white, till open books light their now-colorful faces. The books in the story are live characters, behaving like birds—or people. The volumes can walk, fly—and empathize.
Some images appear to have been created for the book: their lines are more sharply defined. Those familiar with Joyce’s past work may see a potential and poignant passing of the baton. Artist Joyce has struggled of late with his eyes.
Ah, but the artist still sees.
And still gives so much to the world of story, such as the book’s perfect finish:
“And so our story ends as it began . . . with the opening of a book.”
See the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLlOB1X72rc
—Diana Star Helmer, author
Imagine a community where families can’t have more than two kids. Luke is the third kid in his family. Illegally. He is a shadow child. He has never been to school, never made friends or even talked to his neighbors. When Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a new house where two kids already live, he makes a plan to find her. Will he become involved in Jen’s dangerous plan to come out of the shadows?
I really enjoyed Among The Hidden. It is a great start to the Shadow Children series. Anybody any age will keep turning the pages to this action-packed book, begging for more.
—Megan Zamow, 6th grader
Three books unravel in front of your eyes. The Giver and Gathering Blue come together to create the fascinating Messenger. Many twists take you throughout the amazing book. Lois Lowry allows readers to use their imaginations to guide themselves through Messenger.
Messenger takes place in a futuristic community called Village. Matty, Leader, Mentor, Jean, and Seer are the characters that are focused on most. Matty lives with Seer, a blind man, who has a daughter in another community. Matty starts noticing strange changes in Village and the people who live in it. Suddenly a huge change is made and Matty needs to find Seer’s daughter before it is too late. Lois Lowry makes it seem as if her theme is friendship and what you will do for those close to you.
I really enjoyed Messenger. It kept me interested and wanting to read more. It is that kind of book that many people would enjoy, child to adult. Lowry includes many turns in the plot and characters that many people could relate to.
Lois Lowry’s Messenger left me wondering and interested. Children and adults, boys and girls with an active imagination would like it. What will Matty find out about Village?
—Megan Zamow, 6th grader
Words first: Mac Barnett doesn’t waste any. He isn’t afraid to let Jon Klassen’s pictures (equally economical) do everything they can—which sometimes means no words are needed at all.
The brisk, brief story tells of Annabelle, who “one cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot,” discovers a box. On the outside, the box is quite dark. Inside is yarn, yarn that flows from pink pastels to yellows to blue-greens. She knits herself a sweater, then one for her dog, then her bully-boy neighbor and his dog, too.
All this happens in two pictures.
Bad boy Nate is one of the only characters to show even one frame of emotion. Most, including Annabelle, appear with almost deadpan faces. Not unpleasant, mind you, simply—bemused. The faces appear atop stockinged legs that may be cut paper, interrupted by torsos in knitted sweaters, always a jumble of colors, subtle and lovely.
The white snow, mentioned early, serves as a backdrop for rib stitches. The white of the snow glints between every stitch. Bodies and buildings and trees remain sooty—until Annabelle’s knitting covers them.
Of course, the box of yarn is magic. There is always extra yarn inside, no matter how much she uses.
Of course, an evil archduke wants to buy the box from her. When she won’t sell, he steals it.
And of course, true magic always chooses the true of heart. The ending is as generous in pictures as it is spare of words. A most satisfying, quasi-modern fairy tale.
—Diana Star Helmer, author
Imagine a community where if you have even the littlest thing wrong with you, you are sent to die. That is the way it is in Kira’s community in the book Gathering Blue. It included the meaning of friendship, family, loss and injury in an entertaining plot line. Many interesting twists and turns appear in Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry.
In this companion to The Giver, Kira, a two-syllable girl loses her mother to disease and is taken to a court to see if she can live. Arguments arrive as soon as they see her useless twisted leg but stop dead in their tracks after discovering her amazing work with threads. She is sent to a wing to work on the Singer’s robe when she meets Thomas, a carpenter, Jo an orphan singer, and Matt who help her make her threads and find out what really happened to her family. She uncovers huge secrets about the community and the people who live there.
Lois Lowry created Gathering Blue in a way that kept me thinking and entertained. I would surely recommend it. My favorite part is when Kira met Jo because it made me wonder why the council was making her do the things she was and why she was doing them at such a young age.
If you are looking for a book to read, try Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. It makes you wonder what will happen next and how people could be different than you think they are.