Wednesday, April 9, 2014

March Round-Up

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Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014

This wonderful and thought provoking collection includes over 30 poems, organized by season, from spring to winter. As the subtitle dictates each poem is just a few lines. They’re bits of poetry to read aloud, small appetizers that whet the appetite with the delicious way the words roll around the mouth. The poems, from a variety of poets (Robert Frost, Joyce Sidman, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, and more), flow from one to the next in a continuous stream, building and drawing on one another. Poems are thoughtfully arranged one per page. The text is bold and easy to read and the illustrations provide seasonal atmosphere. Sweet’s illustrations also prompt the reader to think about the mental images the words conjure, suggesting just enough, but never overpowering the words. The book begins with a table of contents and ends with detailed attribution notes.

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King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, Illustrated by Christiane Krömer
Lee & Low Books, 2013

Today is a special day in Lahore, Pakistan! It’s Basant, the spring festival that is celebrated with parties, food, and best of all, kite-flying battles! With the help of his younger brother and sister, Malik expertly guides his beloved homemade kite Falcon to swoop, soar, and snip the strings of other colorful kites. At first Falcon is threatened by a cruel bully’s gigantic kite, but Malik’s deft maneuvering skills triumph! This story not only introduces readers to Basant, but also features a protagonist who never lets his wheelchair get in his way. Written from Malik’s perspective, the narrative is concise, yet descriptive. Although there is a small conflict between the bully and Malik, the story really serves to open a window to another culture. The vibrantly colored mixed media illustrations pair 2D drawn/painted elements with 3D collage elements that pop from the page. The author’s note following the story includes information on the origins, traditions, and modern day celebrations of Basant. A brief glossary and pronunciation guide is also included. Read this book as part of a discussion on spring festivals around the world.

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Monday, Wednesday,and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton
Feiwel and Friends, 2014

Henry used to live in one house with his mother, father, and his dog Pomegranate. But now he and Pomegranate live in two houses.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other weekend he lives with his mother in her house full of hanging mobiles. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the other weekends he lives in his father’s house and together they read and play music. Unfortunately, this is terribly confusing to Pomegranate and one day he escapes to find their old house. Set in a multicultural city environment, red-haired Henry is surrounded by neighbors of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The straight forward text focuses on actions, rather than emotions, but allows plenty of room for discussion for the readers. The mixed media illustrations, a combination of acrylics and paper collage, are bright and colorful featuring bold brush strokes and striking patterns. Overall, this is a positive depiction of separated/divorced parents that shows how families can be different, but still loving and caring. Check out the peppy book trailer for a look at the illustrations.

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The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

This picture book biography focuses on the paintings of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the pioneers of abstract art.  Kandinsky spent his childhood in Russia and it was there that his aunt gave him his first paint box. Young Vasya loved to paint – he heard music in the colors and that’s what he painted – but his family was confused. What was his art supposed to be? As an adult Vasya continued to struggle with the idea that a painting should be something even as he heard “Thundering arches of aqua and ebony, with shrill points of cobalt and saffron.” And then one day, Vasya decided to listen to the colors and this lead him to create some of the first abstract art. The lush acrylic and paper collage illustrations are energetic, painterly, and flowing. GrandPré uses her own style infused with Kandinsky’s color palate to demonstrate how sound and color were connected in Vasya’s mind. The text, great for reading aloud, is a combination of third person narrative and dialogue. Rosenstock includes a note that the dialogue is completely from her own imagination. The author's note also includes information on Kandinsky’s childhood, his art, and the possibility that he experienced colors as sounds because of synesthesia. Print and online sources are listed, as well. Pair this nonfiction title with Daniel Pinkwater’s Bear’s Picture to introduce the topic, “what is art?”