The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

by Gloria Fowler, illustrated by Sun Young Yoo

published 2008, by Ammo Books

The slightest clunk in some of the words is swept up in the utter beauty of the illustrations in The Red Shoes. It’s an interpretation of the classic Hans Christian Anderson story, and I love its elegant take on girl power.

Just look at that cover. It’s evocative and inviting and so lovely that I’m not quite sure where her locks and thread intertwine and end.

The illustrations are rendered in black and white throughout, and so the peek of red under the dust jacket is exquisite. And lift that dust jacket for a taste of those red shoes.The Red ShoesSpeaking of the black and white, Sun Young Yoo says this: “A lot of people have asked me the reason why I don’t use any colors in my work. I do use colors sometimes, but I think there are a lot of colors out in the world. I don’t think I need too many colors to express my thoughts and stories. A piece of paper and a pen with black ink would be enough for me to create my own world. Instead of filling up the paper with colors, I’m inviting the viewers to my black and white world and asking them to fill up the blanks with their own colors and imagination.”The Red ShoesEndpaper junkies will adore them, and so will the shoe fiends among you. (I’m looking at you, Sallie.)The Red ShoesAnd the title, woven from needle and thread. Whoa. All of these details, and we are just now to the beginning of the words in the story. Thanks to its form, so much of the picture book experience is absorbed prior to reading a word. Its art, its heft, its detail: you’ve read so much of the story before you get to its true beginning.Then we meet Karen, the daughter of the town shoemaker. We see one illustration of their love for each other, an embrace that is so deftly drawn that it takes a long look to see where one begins and the other ends.So when Karen’s mother falls ill and passes away, the devastation is great. She’s alone in a vast empty space. And that tear.The Red ShoesThe Red ShoesEnter a queen and a princess and a decree to hand over the red shoes or be cut at the ankle. Karen looks so alone in this forest of executioner boots.The Red ShoesWhere white has washed the previous pages, now we only see dark. And man, I love this picture. Karen’s mother, reflected in a river and reaching out for Karen’s tears. Once again, the two wrapped around one another.The Red ShoesThe Red ShoesAnd then, a spark. Stitches and beads and sequins and threads. A bit of bravery and a touch of trickery.

I love that a story about a special pair of red shoes was told with an economy of color. The expressive line of a careful pencil holds all the weight of this fairy tale.

Happily ever after.

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The Tiny King

The Tiny King by Taro Muiraby Taro Miura

first U.S. edition published 2013, by Candlewick Press

Here’s a sweet and funny story. Candlewick sent me a review copy of The Tiny King in the waning weeks of 2013. My eye was already eager for it thanks to this Calling Caldecott post about international illustrators, so it was a bit of postal perfection. (Speaking of, are you counting down the days to January 27th?)

And then for Christmas, my mom sent me a spectacular selection of picture books – including The Tiny King! She always says I’m tough to buy books for, like “purchasing jewelry for a jeweler.” Maybe that’s true, but I think she did a pretty darn good job. (The others were a Poky Little Puppy Christmas edition and an autographed Jon Scieszka, so. And all came from bbgb in Richmond, VA. Shop indie!)

There’s no moral to this story. Just an extra copy of The Tiny King for you! Stay tuned for how to snag it.

So, this book. It’s this crazy mashup of charming fairy tale and quirky collage. The result is exquisite and mesmerizing, and you get a taste of that from the cover alone.

A sword-gripping hand is strong and fierce but nothing more than a circle. His distinguished white hairdo dripping out from under his crown – a small stack of white, curved lines. A leg made up of newsprint, which on careful inspection is a snippet of the tiny King’s wedding announcement. Foreshadowing. Spoiler. Clever and adorable.

Did you see the mini-note at the bottom of the cover, too? (This is the actual size of the Tiny King.) What a little delight!DPB_Stack_TheTinyKingNow that you’ve met him on the cover where you’ve seen him smash end to end, flip open to the first page and see that stature in context. This split in scale made me laugh out loud and drop my jaw. It’s so stunning, and so easy to fall in love with this little dude – small and alone and swimming in it.

He has a massive colorful castle, an army of tall soldiers with spears, and a feast fit for a bigger king. The spreads that introduce the reader to his lavish and lonely lifestyle are dark and looming, despite his kooky, whimsical posessions.DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing2And then one day, a big princess shows up. The light! The expanse of bright space! The Q on her triangled gown! I went all out gaga and giddy for our tiny hero.

Everything changes in tone and in mood. The story takes place on washes of pink, blue, and yellow. The babies arrive, the soldiers are sent home to their families, and the empty castle is filled up with a bunch of love.DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing3Happily and beautifully ever after.

I’d love to send a copy from my castle to yours. Just comment here by Thursday night at midnight PST. I’ll announce winners for this giveaway (and The Mischievians!) on Friday, and head to the royal post office this weekend.

Good luck!

ch

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

 

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsHere’s something.

By Mo Willems. Published 2005, by Hyperion Books for Children. (Which I believe is now Disney-Hyperion.)

An old favorite, a forgotten gem. I was plotting a read-aloud for fourth graders, hunting for a picture book about meanness and bragging and being friends with someone different than you. In true Mo Willems style, this thing jumped right off the shelf when I ran my fingers across the spines. True story.

So I ignored my achy-creaky knees, and hovered over this on the floor of the library. It was one of the last purchases I made for the library before I left Virginia for California, but I haven’t given it two shakes of a nod since.

Not surprisingly, it’s brilliant.

It’s sheer size is in direct opposition to how terrible of a monster Leonardo is. I mean, he’s so big that he can’t even be contained to the cover. All we see is a peek of meek eyes and teensy-tiny horns. But we already know he’s pretty bad at being a monster. That juxtaposition is beyond hilarious, right?Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo, he’s terrible. And terribly alone. Look at all of the white space on this spread, highlighting just how terrible and terribly alone Leonardo is. It makes his sad face even more pathetic. Awful. Awesome.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsAdults laugh at him. He doesn’t have Tony’s outrageous stack of teeth. And then there’s Eleanor, whose purple pedicure and anklet only hint at what kind of monstrous mug she may have.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsBut Leonardo has an idea  – a fantastic, scare-the-tuna-salad-out-of-a-scaredy-cat-kid idea. His plot gives him some bounces of confidence. And there’s less white space. More text, more oomph, more pizzazz from his plan. He’s not so alone.

Enter: Sam.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsThe reader knows right away that Sam and Leonardo are cut from the same cloth of lonely. Sam has even more nothing around him. Sam isn’t even facing forward. Sam has the saddest pit of despair behind those wire rims.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo when Leonardo blaggle-blaggles, grrrrs, and roooaarrrs, Sam cries.

But. It’s not because he’s scared.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsNow. Here’s where I did a combo of a laugh/snort/cackle/snot/wimper thing. Sam’s white space is filled to the brim with all of the awful things that were bouncing around under his bowl cut. A mean big brother! A stubbed toe! On the same foot that he hurt last month! Bird poo! A hurt tummy!

All of Sam’s insides just tumble out and stun that gruff old Leonardo. Look at how he’s clutching his chest! Swoon.

That’s why.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsAnd then – an epic page turn. Leonardo’s smart, caring, friend-brain fills up all of that white space. It’s like the part where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. By seeing his whole face, his thought process, and those very un-monster eyes, we watch his heart change. Just like that.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsLeonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsThe way Mo Willems uses space and size in this book shows us so much about Leonardo, Sam, and ourselves.

Friends. Flipping you forward since about forever.

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P.S. – For those fourth graders? Ended up going with Each Kindness, which is lovely beyond measure, and the moment was just shy of heart stopping. It was a perfect picture book morning. 

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What Happens When . . .

by Delphine Chedru

{published 2013 (in English), by Tate Publishing}

I’ve been thinking a lot about visual storytelling lately. Well, I pretty much am always thinking about visual storytelling. And that’s why I was so tickled and touched by this book. Thanks to Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things for introducing me to this lovely find!

I bought it because of that cover. I didn’t know I’d open page after page of wow.Instantly, I was drawn to the simplicity of each layout. A spare white page on the left, graced only with one line of text. And on the right, a richly colored illustration to match the text. On this very first spread, you get a clear sense of Delphine Chedru’s suggested shapes and mastery of negative space. It’s graphic and bold and beautiful.

So what does the text say?

What happens when my balloon floats up, out of the zoo . . . ?

And then, this:Rather than turning the page, you unfold it. The text is still there to remind you of the story that gurgled up out of that wonder. Do you see your red balloon?The pages that follow are just as curious, and just as surprising. It’s impossible to not create a scenario for each posed question, and then be awed by the illustrator’s solution. And to my bucket when I leave it behind on the beach . . . ?What you might not be able to see in that picture is a WANTED sign for the shark, and a tiny red fish with a sheriff’s hat leading his capture, all with that bucket that you left on the beach. Adore.

And wouldn’t it be fun to create your own pages like this? Or respond to these pictures in writing? Isn’t all creativity answering ‘What if?’What happens when my left sock slips behind the radiator . . . ?

Well?What happens to Teddy when I leave him behind . . . ?

That bird on the boing-boing horse is just too much. Makes me laugh every time.

And then, a big, huge, monster question:What happens to stories once a book is closed . . . ?
This last page doesn’t unfold. This answer is up to you.

I am so under the spell of this weighty book with the lighthearted illustrations. I’m not sure how to answer that last question, and sitting with the ‘What if?’ is both challenging and satisfying, isn’t it?breakerWant more Delphine Chedru? Me too. I found this book trailer, and although I can’t understand the words, I can read the pictures. So charmed.

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I Am the King

i am the king copyby Leo Timmers

{published 2008, by Gecko Press}

Boom. Instant color story. I bought this book for its cover. Except – it’s pink. Really. Here’s the back cover of my copy to assure you I am not crazybonkers.breakerThe one up above is from Gecko Press’ website, and it’s blue! And gold! And I don’t know why, but I love that. Color is the standout of this book anyway, so even though I’m sure there’s a very official reason for the difference, it gives me another layer of grin-wrinkles. (Grinkles.)

Want more grinkles? Title page. Don’t skip over it, and don’t assume it’s just where all the boring stuff for librarians goes, because look:breakerThis moment, unknown to both a snoozing lion and a speedy turtle, drives the entire book. The story begins before the story starts. (And might now be my second favorite title page ever. Behind this one, of course.)breakerOne by one, wide-eyed and wishful animal friends fight for the right to that spectacular crown. The elephant’s anklet is my favorite. And so it’s never quite right until the true king regains his crown, but the mayhem along the way is as wild as the creatures themselves.breakerColor is a star. Mr. Timmers refrains from detailed backgrounds in favor of a solid, brightly colored backdrop. All of your attention is on the animal and his crazy claim. Where they live doesn’t matter, but they do. A tricky ape, a resolute croc, an elegant flamingo – all individuals, all with a hope and a story.breakerThe best way to distinguish these distinguished dudes? Color. A hue splash for each that matches their quirk and colors their dream to be king.

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P.S. – Did you see? A chance to win a set of four Sassy board books!

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Flora and the Flamingo

by Molly Idle

{published 2013 by Chronicle Books}

I think the first Molly Idle illustration I ever saw was something from her latest release, Tea Rex. She had me at the pale pink and yellow striped wallpaper. Done for.

But the pale pink and yellow in a freshly-cracked-open Flora and the Flamingo might have pushed me over the ooooooh-top.

That bright yellow is a perfect complement to the sweet shades of pink. And of course, it’s also the cheery color of dear Flora’s daisy-spotted swim cap. And note something about that deceptively simple tagline, Friendship is a beautiful dance.’ Besides being a lovely sentiment, it sets up the reader to really count the time, hear the music, and expect an overwhelming crescendo.

I was entirely swept away.

The book opens on a flamingo in a perfect passé. But then…

Here she comes. In floppy black flippers, and already in stark contrast to the flamingo’s lean grace.But Flora is unabashedly confident, and sidles right up to the flamingo, mirroring his move. And do you see the flaps? Molly Idle’s animation background breaks through the static page turn of the picture book, and requires the reader to be participatory, to be part of the dance.So much to love here. The once confident Flora is now coy and demure. If that’s not an eye for mischief, I’m not sure what is.

Also? Her roundness is part of her charm, right?! I take a beginning ballet class for adults, and this kinship to Flora makes me feel like I fit right in at the barre. Love her for that!And so they dance.

Have you noticed their spatial separation up until this point? Flora firmly planted on the right, the flamingo steady and stable on the left. Until this spread! Flora jetés straight across the gutter to her partner. That spread above stunned me, made me gasp, and then made me cheer.After some pages of very cute choreography, the flamingo forgets his manners (I assume he had them in the first place, as dapper flamingos usually do, right?) and teases the upside down and awkward moves of Flora. She stumbles and spills and is so very sad. And there she is, all alone, and back on the right hand side of the spreads.

Until…He dances to her. It’s his turn to cross the gutter, to patch things up with Flora, to offer up apologies and invite her to dance again.

From a design perspective, that movement is subtle, simple, and utterly brilliant. From a story-telling perspective, the exact same thing is true.For much of the book, Flora and her friend have been relatively small on the page, allowing for lots of white space. That space lets these characters live at the heart of the book, and leaves room for the dance of friendship to reverberate.

That’s why this near-final spread is so soaring. The steps have been small but meaningful, and the rhythm of their dance echoes their size on the page. But now, they launch out of frame together. The left side/right side split is irrelevant, and the crescendo of their dance matches their mended-up and larger than life friendship.

Now, I’m not much of a betting girl. (Except for those early 2000s when all I wanted to do was play poker. True story. And I was halfway decent, but my sister was always better.) But if I had to put all of my money on the top Caldecott contender for this year? This one, by leaps and bounds.

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Round Trip

RoundTripcover

by Ann Jonas

{published 1983, by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins}

I remember the cover, the texture, and the feeling of checking out a handful of books from Mrs. Marks at the Ridge Elementary School library. Not that I only checked out a handful, but some are so ingrained you could drop a penny in that wrinkle and it would come out flat.

The Story About Ping, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (with that cover!), My Brother Sam is Dead, Strega Nona, and something with two girls in a tree on the cover. A lemon tree? That’s a lttle fuzzier.

And this one. Round Trip by Ann Jonas. When my friend Darshana recommended it to me recently, I was floored. I had been trying to think of this book for ages, and she brought it all flooding back. Thank you, Darshana!!

Ok, yap yip shh. The book.

It’s lyrical and sort of quiet, a trip through the town before the day has really started. Past closed stores, a barely stirring farm, to the empty coast. to

After watching a movie and the sun set, it’s time to return home. But. There are no more pages. That’s when you flip the book UPSIDE DOWN and read it again. Back to front, and left to right.fromThe small farm’s rippled rows are now smoky factories. The trains exhaust poofs are now puddles under rain. And home is home again.

contrast

I love the stark contrast of black and white. You know I do.

But the thing that is driving this story and these ingenious pictures is the existence of negative space. That’s where the space around an object forms something else. Maybe it’s amorphous and just beautiful fill, and maybe it’s an entire new world.

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Same spread, the top is going, and the bottom is returning. The marsh becomes fireworks as the day becomes night. (Images from Greenwillow’s blog.)

A while back, (a long while back, actually!) we looked at Caldecott-winning Black and White and those crazy images that are both vase and face. You know those. And these: a series of negative space animals, take a keen eye to these and enjoy. And you do know about the arrow in the FedEx logo, right? Right. You’ll never unsee it.

So enjoy Round Trip forward, and enjoy it backward. See the negative, feel the positive. Embrace the space.

ch

Design is a Dandelion

by Janice Lovoos

{published 1966, by Golden Gate Junior Books}

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. You remember the library, right?

I went to Pike Place Market, because of course, but also because flying fish and dudes in galoshes are a spectacle worth checking out. And I also wanted to get up close and personal with some bluefin tuna eyeballs.

There’s a real reason for that, trust me. But they didn’t have any tuna, so this happened: Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.51.46 AM

There’s not a real point to that story except that I adore that tweet (and those two Favoriters) and it’s what I did just before I wandered into Lamplight Books.

It’s like I stole something. Fifteen dollars? Sixty quarters? It still has that magical, musty smell of hidden secrets. And it was mine in a fraction of a split second. That fast.

Because…behold:

 I’m in love. From the texture of a porcupine, to the form of mountains and weeds, to the repetition inside a squash, design is everywhere.

Design is a Dandelion ends like this, with truth and a charge:

Design is everywhere. It is for everyone. All you have to do is to learn to see it. Open your eyes and take a big, long look.

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takemeouttotheyakyu

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

byAaron Meshon

{published 2013, by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, and imprint of Simon & Schuster}

When I first heard of this book at SCBWI LA last summer, it was some art on a slide at the front of the room. I was in the back row, and I was hooked. I’ve been waiting for it ever since, and I love that its release was in eager anticipation of baseball’s opening days.

{Sidenote: Cano + Jay-Z? Interesting collaboration. I’ll always be a Chipper Jones girl myself. Middle school scrapbooks and everything. Really.}

But this book. It’s a visual juxtaposition of baseball traditions in America and Japan. A global pastime.

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On the left, a kiddo goes to the park with his Pop Pop, and on the right, he hangs out with his ji ji.

{Sidenote again: I had the world’s greatest Pop Pop – no offense to our bright eyed young’n in this book. He always called that Chipper Jones fella Skipper.}

The sweet story arc socked me in the gut a little, because of my own fondness for family trips to the baseball stadium. Aaron Meshon’s saturated colors that are full of life vibrate with the energy of a game. The American blues and the Japanese reds contrast beautifully on each spread, too.

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One of the reasons I love baseball so much is its balance of sheer intensity and quiet, and the roar of a rallied-up crowd. The composition of the illustrations echo that rise and fall – some are fully rendered to the edge, color spilling off the page. Some are contained in a quieter space, bordered by white.

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And I love this – a subtle repetition of a circle, the stitched up sphere of a baseball. It even shows up on the back of the title page. I’m blanking on my librarian vocabulary – the verso, is it? That part where all the important cataloging information lives.

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It’s here, too. Those cheeks!

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And this – baseball is exhausting.

So get this book. It’s a home run. (And a slam dunk, too – even though that’s the wrong sport.)

ch

Penguin and Pinecone

by Salina Yoon

{published 2012, by Walker & Company, an imprint of Bloomsbury}

And! Penguin has a very cute blog!

I’ve been meaning to write about this book ever since I met Salina at an event in December. December!

2013 has been a time warp, but at least I’ve been surrounded by lots of great books.

I love that tiny Penguin and his dapper orange scarf Salina drew for me. (She’s just as adorable, too.) And this might be one of my favorite title pages of all time. The bed of pine needles, the heart…sweet, sweet foreshadowing.

Salina’s compositions are all striking, with a calming sense of space and subtle mood-building color palettes.

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Remember the Rule of Thirds? Salina’s ground to sky ratio is a beautiful example of it. And I love that she chose the cool and crystal clear sky to be the dominant feature. It’s a wide open space, but Penguin still feels chilly and at home.

Every shivering pinecone needs an orange scarf right? Which is certainly a lovely thing to use as clothing for a penguin, but doesn’t it also magnify how freezing Penguin’s world is? It makes sense, but it also plunges the reader into that arctic blast.But since pinecones don’t live in the frigid air, Penguin sets off with his friend on a sled to return him home.And this spread. So pretty, and so sweet. There’s that bed of cozy needles from the title page, see? The contrast in worlds here is magnified by the color. Penguin’s home was cool and blue, and Pinecone’s neighborhood is warm with yellows, browns, and greens. Later, Penguin returns in search of his friend, and this left hand side of the most perfect spread is a mashup of their two worlds’ color. And I can’t show you the right. Cause, spoiler alert! But it’s spectacular and you just have to see for yourself. Trust me.

It’s easy to fall in love with Penguin and Pinecone, and since you probably already have, be on the lookout for two more of their adventures! Penguin on Vacation is coming in April, and Penguin in Love is coming before the end of the year. So dear, so perfect, so chilly.

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