Jonah Winter and his illustrator Mom create a hauntingly beautiful world

August 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Secret World of Hildegard 
Jonah Winter author and Jeanette Winter illustrator
Arthur A Levine books an imprint of Scholastic
557 Broadway
NY NY 10012
2007
Growing up in the middle ages meant girls had very limited opportunities. The author uses the color gray to describe these times.
Hildegard from her earliest memories saw a bright world with flames and stars inside her head.
I like the repeated line of poetry to describe how it felt to be her.
(even printed in gray)
“And there was grayness
and silence and sorrow,
though a light shone brightly inside her.”
Headaches were a frequent problem. Her parents took her to a monastery to live with the sisters.
One sister, Jutta was her constant companion and she taught Hildegard many things.
After Jutta’s death, Hildegard left their room and the other sisters elected her mistress.
The headaches still haunted her but she kept them and the visions a secret.
One night she heard God speaking to her and telling her to tell others what she had seen.
She started to tell others what she had seen.
As she shared her visions the headaches went away! She wrote hymns and she wrote books-one on animals and the other on medicines. The King and the pope even listened to her.
She had been true to what she had seen and she shared it with others.
The author focused on the visions when telling her story.
He believes that “were it not for Hildegard’s mystical visions (as recorded in her books, Know the Ways of God, The Book of Life’s Merits and The Book of Divine Works) and her courage to reveal them to the world, neither her musical nor scientific creations would have had the chance to blossom”.

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Author Michelle Markel calls these books an ‘introduction’

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

These are quick notes I made as I was summing up how this genre is assembled.

Dreamer from the Village the story of Marc Chagall
By Michelle Markel and illustrator Emily Lisker 
Henry Holt And Company
2005
Michelle provided 2 pages of notes in the back.
Note that most of the info came from his autobiography.
And she gave page and a half with expanded details of his timeline.
And a short glossary of four Jewish words.
A copy of one of his paintings courtesy of MOMA.
1250 words

The Day glo brothers the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s bright ideas and brand new colors
By Chris Barton and illustrator Tony Persiani
Publisher Charlesbridge
2009
Nice story of how the colors came to be through the story of the two brothers.
At the back are some explanations.
How does regular fluorescence work?
How does daylight fluorescence work?
Author’s note tells how the author came to this story. Reading obit and then finding family members to tell him more.
Both were already dead.
Family willing to share their original notes and letters.
2000 words

The author tells five other sources.
A self published book by their family friend.
Patent office.
US Army historical office in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
A friend identified by name.
The original Popular Science article.

Two More by Deborah Hopkinson

August 14, 2013 § 1 Comment

Annie and Helen
Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Ages 4-8
Schwartz and Wade books
New York 2012
Author’s note before cover page and includes the Braille alphabet.
Acknowledgement page at the end includes further reading and websites to learn more about Annie and Helen.

Author has a wonderful descriptive way with words!
Expressions : “Helen was like a small,wild bird, throwing herself against the bars of a dark and silent cage.”
“like someone on a windy peak trying to kindle a fire for warmth, Annie kept hoping for a spark to catch.”
“Suddenly the rush of water and the touch of Annie’s fingers flashed through Helen’s mind like lightening in a midnight sky.”
Featured interspersed throughout the book in italics are portions of Annie’s letters ‘home’ to her friend and former teacher at the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston-Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins.
It is through these descriptive and dated letter, we see how Annie’s persistence pays off relatively quickly. Her discipline and Helen’s parents willingness to let Annie help their child mean the way is clear to start doing the hard work of bringing Helen out of her own frustrating world.
While not a light-hearted story, there is joy in seeing these two people work together. Inspiring. Humbling.

Knit Your Bit
Author Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator Steven Guarnaccia
2013 G.P. Putnam’s Sons division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Historical fiction based on real events.
Deborah tells the story of people back home supporting troops in WWI by knitting. Deborah creates characters to tell of one particular event held in NYC’s Central Park in the summer of 1918.
She sets up the story with one particular family where Dad has gone to war and the son’s (main character and told in first person) desire to help support his dad. He cannot go fight but what can he do? Dad says staying home takes courage too.
So our young hero, Mikey has to choose to be courageous in trying something new. Something he probably won’t be the best at since he is inexperienced.
The illustrator does a nice job capturing the time period with clothing and hair styles. And boy can Mikey pout and frown with his arms crossed in refusal when first offered the opportunity to knit for the troops.
The idea of boys knitting seems preposterous to him and he is not even dissuaded by his sister pointing out news articles of men-including fire fighters-knitting for the cause!
But what his sister can’t accomplish, his girl classmates do as his pride gets him and some of his buddies in a contest to see who is better/faster at knitting. What was Mikey thinking?!
Mom comes to the rescue teaching the three young men.  But it is their hard work that will have to carry the day.
After grumbling Mikey gets to work.  He tells as the event approaches how he is getting pretty good at making socks while his buddies are having less success but at least keep trying.
Deborah does a great job recreating the day so that children today could relate:
Men, women and lots of girls are present and we can hear hesitant Nick whispering how they may “get laughed outta here.” Dan is distracted by the smell of food and wondering when it will be time to eat!
Knitting starts and continues over a three day period. She includes anecdotes about some of the competitors but the spotlight is on her lead character as he deals with disappointment.
One sock is done very well but the other one has a flaw that cannot be fixed without starting over. As he hits this low point and is “feeling miserable” he hears a returning soldier comment on the one perfect sock. Encouraging him to feel good about trying, the soldier then asks the boy if he has anyone over there. “All at once I missed Pop so much, my eyes stung. I wondered where he was…How could anything I do-little or big-really help?”
The soldiers words bring him out of his thoughts as he tells Mikey how nice warm socks would have felt the past winter.
As he starts to tear apart the partially completed sock the words sound that the time is up.
The classmates all have smiles and although the girls won “fair and square”, Mikey assures the girls there are no hard feelings. “Naw. Just wait until next time.”
But it is not the end of the story. The competition may be over but Mikey needs courage again. This time to approach the young soldier. What I did not say earlier is that the soldier had only one foot. So you know why Mikey wanted to find him: to give him the one perfect sock!
I like the epilogue so to speak. His friends never knit again, his sister gets even better and makes hats for all the men in their Pop’s unit. And Mikey tells us he kept at it and finally knit a pair of socks for their dad.
“He promised to wear them on the day he came home. And he did.”
Finish with a hugging dad and son.
Two pages in the back with notes about the real story of people knitting for WWI soldiers. Deborah included a song, a poster, and information on how you can get involved today with knitting for others in need.
The end papers have photos of groups of children knitting and the famous sheep on the White House lawn.

Hand over the Handel book (cause I know what I like, too!)

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Handel Who Knew What He Liked
By MT Anderson and Kevin Hawkes
Candlewicke Press Cambridge MA
2001
Boston Globe Horn book award winner for non fiction
Author tells us in book flap front cover that Handel always knew what He liked and He was never afraid to do what he liked.
Lively illustrations that capture the time period.
Notes along the way to define what may be unfamiliar terms.
Some notes are tidbits of trivia: Orchestra led by the person playing the harpsichord instead of by a conductor with a baton.
Example of humor from author’s own words: Handle was an unusual boy. Not everyone has the courage to smuggle a clavichord past their parents.
Besides humor the author tells the truth about Handel’s feelings (Mattheson is a pain) and his failures-maybe more like a setback. His desire to bring Italian opera to the English. He felt like a failure. But one last assignment for Irish orphans kept him from going home to Germany. The story of this piece-well I don’t want to spoil it but go read for yourself.

Two pages in the back chronology of his life and discography. Also suggestions for further reading.

Carrie and Mark introduce us to Sara Emma

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sara Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender 
The True Story of a Civil War Spy
By Carrie Jones
Illustrations by Mark Oldroyd
Ages 7-11
Carolrhoda Books
A Division of Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Ave North Minneapolis, MN 55401
Copyright 2011
One page Author’s note includes one photo with permission grated by privileges.
Four selected biographies for source material.
One from 1865 the others 1988,1999, and 2005

Really like the artwork. Does not say his medium. Looks like pastels with a wash underneath?
His use of white and black/gray to make things stand out-great!
The story telling is fine. Carrie keeps bringing in the reality that being a pretender was how Sara survived and at times thrived.
It was her way of living in a world where she was excluded on the basis of gender. Her pretending at first was only about herself but as the war came,  she could help others by pretending. Becoming a spy came about when she figured she could keep soldiers from dying as her buddy James Versey had.
Carrie made the story more conversational; for example,  at one point: ‘Frank’s-I mean Sarah’s -mission…’
Carrie acknowledge that it is confusing at times. Once she spied on the confederates disguised as a female peddler: she is a woman (Sarah) pretending to be a man (Frank) pretending to be a woman (Bridget).

Action Jackson (Pollock, that is!)

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Action Jackson 
By Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (he actually knew Jackson)
Roaring Book Press 2002
Back pages a biography 2 pages with photos of the artist/paintings.
2 pages of notes and sources quotes from radio interview and other biographies for every page from this picture book.
1 page of bibliography.

On the dedication page the authors say some is imagined.
We don’t know if events were exactly as we have described but many first hand accounts of the summer 1950.   And of course the way he walked and talked dressed and especially the way he painted.

Excellent use of descriptive language to engage the readers’ senses.

To tell his story they focus on the creation of one work. To set the stage they show a his habits of relating to the world around him.
His animals-the dog Gyp and the crow Caw Caw
His work environment. Colorful language with adjectives perfect for the noun they are matched with.

Page7
Gray weathered barn used to be filled with rusted machinery, old fishing gear, and broken tools. Now…

Sunlight pokes through cracks in the boards, and flies buzz in the dusty studio air.
Sliding doors rattle on their frames.

Authors want to show how his work was unique and how people reacted to it.

Page 7 ‘some artists…not Jackson.’
Using description of his work to tell us more about his life history.

Page7
‘He wants his paintings to be big, big as the sky out West where he grew up, flat as the marshland behind the house.’

His process
Page 7
‘He sits, silent, on the floor, staring at the blank canvas.’

Two by Deborah Hopkinson

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sky boys how they built the Empire State Building

Deborah Hopkinson 2006   75th anniversary of the iconic building

James E Ransome-illustrator
Random House Schwartz and Wade books
Tell the story through the narrative of a boy who’s father is out of work in the depression. The race to build it.
Ages 4-9
Real photos on the inside face pages.

The Humble bee Hunter by Deborah Hopkinson 
Illustrator Jen Corace
Ages 4-8
2010
Darwin with his family. 
Starts with Etty not wanted to make honey cake but to be outside.
Through the eyes of Etty and she tells of wanting to be with Dad. Not identifying who he is. He tells the children gathered about his travels and what he collected.
He still collects. 
Mostly he collected questions!
Love that line!
We grew up asking…
Names her siblings as she talks about their experiments.
They counted and poked. They gathered and measured.
Dusted flour on a bee to see how many times the bee stops at flowers.
Counting one two three..different siblings shown following their bees and counting.
Just ends with the highest number 21 and the next page good with bee on flower and the word STOP.
One page of background information.