by Annie Cronin Romano
Mia wants to play with her big brother, but he is always busy. Does Mia pout? Beg? Whine? No. Instead, Lola Schaefer’s delightful ONE BUSY DAY (Disney/Hyperion Books, 2014) depicts Mia’s ability to pass a gleeful day using her own creativity and imagination. Magically illustrated by Jessica Meserve, Mia has one adventure after another, eventually catching the attention of a particular sibling who realizes that playing with his little sister may be more exciting than he first thought. Schaefer and Meserve take the reader on a delightful journey into the magic of a child’s imagination. The text and illustrations blend seamlessly to convey an enchanting tale of the changing dynamics between siblings. ONE BUSY DAY is picture book for children ages 3-5. Get your hands on ONE BUSY DAY and enjoy a story to inspire the imagination.
Schaefer’s use of text is crisp, fresh and rich in imagery. She uses alliteration subtly and effectively. ONE BUSY DAY is a solid example of using minimal text with maximum impact in a picture book format.
For more information about Lola Schaefer’s work, visit her website at www.lolaschaefer.com. To learn more about Jessica Meserve, visit her website at www.jessicameserve.com.
Young Adult Fiction
by Francine Puckly
Padma Venkatraman’s “A Time to Dance” is a young adult novel-in-verse which carries your heart to emotional highs and lows as you journey with a young Bharatanatyam dancer, Veda, through the joys and triumphs of her dance competition to the despair of a heart-wrenching physical setback and into the recovery of her dreams. Because the book is written as novel-in-verse, the author is able to impart the story through flashes of emotion, action and character, giving the reader a deep emotional link to each scene in very few words and lines. It is with these well-chosen words and sparse but conscious writing that Venkatraman carries the reader through the tale of holding and developing new goals and aspirations, as well as growing into a more conscious human being. Each chapter reads as its own beautiful poem, and these poems are threaded together into a captivating story of hope and renewal. I was eager to turn the pages, entranced by the characters and plot, but I also look forward to revisiting the book to savor each poem for its simplicity, beauty and poignancy.
For those of us who have little experience reading or writing novels-in-verse or who might be exploring different formats to express the stories we’re bringing to the page, Venkatraman’s novel is a wonderful study in how to use sparse, well-chosen words and create individual poems that lift and carry the reader through their very own emotional arcs, while at the same time pulling the reader poem-by-poem through a greater story arc of character, plot and emotion.
For more information on Venkatraman’s process in writing this bold cultural and spiritual book for teens, visit http://nancytandon.com/2014/11/11/a-time-to-dance-interview-with-author-padma-venkatraman/. And for three additional writers’ perspectives writing-in-verse, check out http://www.axonjournal.com.au/issue-4/writing-young-adult-verse-novel.
- by Amanda Smith
True confession: I am a mama of boys. Hence, very few pink, “girly”, sparkly books make it home in our library bag. But I could not leave I Had a Favorite Dress on the library shelf. The little girl in me was totally wooed by the self assured girl in the the spring blossom, salmon pink dress on the cover; the candy wrapper pink end pages; and the fabulous multi-media illustrations by Julia Denos.
The main character in I Had a Favorite Dress is a spunky, active girl. She outgrows her “favoritest dress ever” and her creative Mama turns her dress into a series of new, ever shrinking articles of clothing and accessories. However, when her puppy chews Mama’s last creation into the “tiniest scraps of fabric” she’s ever seen, she comes up with her own creative solution to wear her “favoritest dress every day of every season of every year”.
I love how uplifting this book is. The main character is never pouty, but always ready for a new solution. My son loved following the transformation of the dress and the creativity that oozes out of this book captured his imagination. The internal rhyme, colorful illustrations and “Snip,Snip, Sew, Sew” chorus throughout makes this a happy, read- aloud book.
I Had a Favorite Dress has a tight foundational structure. Ashburn uses days of the week as well as seasons to lead the reader through the story.
It is also a beautiful example of the importance of “show, don’t tell”. The main character’s solution to her problem is never put into words. Boni Ashburn allowed her illustrator to tell the high point of the story in pictures. And Julia Denos does this masterfully with a collage of a collage. Individually the text and the illustrations carry the same message of creativity. Combined, they make each page call out “Go make something!”
by Kelly Carey
Few trees in New England put on a better fall foliage show than the maple tree, and few authors have put together a better picture book debut than Lori Nichols with Maple. In our increasingly eco-conscious world, here is a loving picture book that creates a natural but powerful link between a little girl and a maple tree.
Maple’s tree is planted “when she is still a whisper”. Can you guess what kind of tree Maple’s parents plant?
While Shel Silverstein’s boy and the tree in The Giving Tree had a relationship that was sadly thought provoking, Nichols creates a connection between Maple and her tree that is mutually giving and totally joyous. Along with three adorably expressive little stuffed animals, Maple and her tree grow and play together through the wonderfully illustrated changing seasons. When a new baby arrives, Maple depends on her tree to be the perfect big sister.
The relationship between Maple, her tree and her new baby sister is as sweet and charming as the bond Nichols creates between her story and her reader. If Nichol’s illustrations were music they would be smooth jazz, and her text creates huggable moments for her adult reader and child listener.
I would like very much to introduce Maple to Kevin Henke’s Chrysanthemum – two free spirited little ladies, with nature inspired names, who will make you giggle.
In just under 300 words, Nichols creates a character, weaves a complete story arc, builds tension and zings us with an adorable wink at the end. Picture book word counts are shrinking, but Nichols proves that her story can still offer every element needed for success. She has a bit of an advantage because she uses her phenomenal illustrations to convey character, meaning and message. Any author would be fortunate to have Nichols’ drawings to expand on their text.
One can always dream, perhaps under the dancing leaves of a maple tree?
Nichols released a follow up book titled Maple & Willow Together on November 4!
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