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Archive for the ‘author Sam Juliano’ Category

KS1

by Sam Juliano

Drywater Gulch had a toad problem.

They might not be quite as scary as Frank Miller’s gang from High Noon, but three lawless brothers referred to as ‘toads’ are terrorizing Drywater Gulch with their own brand of “hootin’, hollarin’ and cussin.’  You see these varmints are out to steal your gold, kiss your cattle and insult your chili, and without any kind of a challenge, Mayor McGuffin’s town is in for some criminal leadership.

In rides the sheriff -a young boy named Ryan- crawling on the back on a tortoise and sporting a white ten-gallon hat that would earn the admiration of Gene Autry.  Upon arrival the Mayor asks him “What brings you to our spicy town?”  The boy tells him he is the new sheriff, to which the Mayor asks questions you’d expect an affirmative answer to – Can you handle a shooting iron, ride a horse or do any rope tricks?  Receiving a negative response to all he then pokes fun at his pint-size lawman, asking him if he stays up past eight.  Again rebuffed he asks the boy how he can call himself a sheriff.  The boy confidently comes out with the ‘great equalizer’ telling the Mayor he “knows a really lot about dinosaurs.’  The Mayor is mighty impressed and tells the boy “Pleased to meet you Sheriff.” (more…)

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badbye

by Sam Juliano

One can almost picture the author of Bad Bye, Good Bye, the renowned Deborah Underwood, sitting down at a writer and illustrator’s brainstorming session with artist Jonathan Bean trying to get visual transcription from the sparest expression of prose imaginable.  Yet the cards are stacked when you have Underwood setting the rules, as she is rightly known in the trade as just about the most effective minimalist – one who says everything with just a few words.  With barely over fifty-five words, the author has projected a depth of emotion more palpable than many Newbery level books that run hundreds of pages.  Word economy in any form is the most difficult of obstacles to overcome, as it requires a concise and narrowing approach that for all intents and purposes in this book must define a psychological state of mind, and the parade of images that describe a significant life event.  The depth of emotion to be found in Bad Bye, Good Bye is so extraordinarily realized, that even some mock Newbery groups have counted it among the best of the year.  Fifty-seven words that color a lifetime event -one of upheaval, relocation and adaptation achieve a kind of literary perfection -a rarity by any standards, and allow her artist colleague to flesh out these acute applications and bring in a personal measure of interpretation. (more…)

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1

by Sam Juliano

When I first came upon Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins’ Mama Built a Little Nest it was through a library copy secured by cooperative county loan.  The librarian at the main site, where I serve as a board trustee, handed me the book with a startling declaration.  Three of the clerks, including herself, were so smitten with the picture book’s sublime cover, that they in turn read through it, admiring the rapturous art and lovely prose, becoming completely won over in the process.  All three placed orders with Amazon for their own copies,  One subsequently gifted it to her ten-year old grandson.  To be sure the cover is a gem, one of the most eye-popping of the year, and yet another sumptuous collage from the renowned Caldecott Honor winning illustrator Steve Jenkins.  A nearly completed green nest is set on a white base, with a yellow-breasted weaverbird seen upside-down gathering nesting materials that include twigs, branches and blades of grass.  The title is displayed white on green and green on white.  This particular illustration is re-visited later on, where it is revealed that these birds “pull grasses and fiber over, under, around, and through, using only their beak and feet. (more…)

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gg1

by Sam Juliano

Depending on what day of the week you ask me, I will have a firm answer to the question of what might be the year’s premiere picture book achievement.  As it is I have a few supreme favorites, but no discussion of the cream of the crop could successfully move forward without a twenty-one gun salute to Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, with illustrations by newbie Evan Turk.  Of course the assured obeisance is deliberately posed irony, since war, ammunition and bombast are a contradiction to this book of peace, tolerance and inner spirituality.  Eve Bunting and David Diaz’ Caldecott Medal winning Smoky Night advocated peace and friendship after an arc of violence and criminal activities, and Grandfather Gandhi is thematically launched after a domestic act of bullying.   Grandfather Gandhi, a work ten years in the making, is that rarest of birds, a Caldecott contender that could also be a Newbery front runner.  In any other words, a book that boasts prose that is just as beautiful as the illustrations that service it.  It is clear enough that Ms. Hegedus, a former Metropolitan area educator, who now resides in the Lone Star State, wrote the lion’s share of the prose under the guidance and personal revelations of Mr. Gandhi.  The latter is the fifth grandson of one of the most most iconic persons to live in the 20th Century – Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) –  who was the guiding force for Indian independence from British control.  The book, like the teachings of its celebrated proponent asks its readers to live the world as light, and move from the darkness of anger and vengeful reciprocation to illumination and camaraderie. (more…)

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maple

by Sam Juliano

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

Trees as a subject for picture books began to take root in the children’s literature community after a 1956 collaboration between author Janice May Udry and illustrator Marc Simont -A Tree is Nice- resulted in a Caldecott Medal for the latter.  Eight years later Shel Silverstein’s now classic The Giving Tree released, and was translated into a number of languages.  The ever-creative artist Lois Ehlert a number of years later chronicled maple tree maturation from seed to sapling with watercolor collages and leaf shaped die cuts in Red Leaf Yellow Leaf.  Diane Muldrow and Bob Staake joined forces a few years back for the delightful We Planted a Tree, and in 2014 picture book aficionados were treated to a trio of high quality tree-themed works, two of which are Tony Johnston and Wendell Minor’s arresting Sequoia, and As an Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas in Virginia Lee Burton mode.  Both of those titles will be examined in the present series later in December. (more…)

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the iridescence of birds

by Sam Juliano

From the moment one first lays eyes on the ravishing dust jacket cover of Patricia MacLachlan’s wholly sublime  The Iridescence of Birds there is a real sense of mission for educators wishing to expand a young child’s scholastic horizons in a single day, indeed during the course of a single reading.  The often arresting picture book is the third much-heralded release in the past two years  to focus on a celebrated painter, (Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet collaborated on A Splash of Red in 2013, and this year Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor published a picture book on Edward Hopper), though the famed Ms. MacLachlan – a Newbery Medal winner for the beloved Sarah, Plain and Tall – lovingly relates a childhood of maternal inspiration and the telling contrast of a damp and dreary town that gives way to natural beauty and rich palettes behind closed doors.  Her subject is the renowned painter Henri Matisse, who actually took up painting while recovering from appendicitis, and while MacLachlan isn’t specific.  her prose, spare and poetic, persuasively frames his art as something both inherent and nurtured.  Yet the mission is a simpler one than just introducing children to a venerated artist.  It is one of learning a new and challenging word, that lies at the center of the book’s theme: what is the meaning of iridescence? (more…)

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firefly july

by Sam Juliano

Children’s picture book artist extraordinaire Melissa Sweet has illustrated nearly a hundred books in a prolific career, but the last few years she has come into her own in spectacular fashion.  In 2008 she won a Caldecott Honor for her arresting mixed-media collages in the sublime picture book biography of poet William Carlos Williams, A River of Words, written by Jennider Bryant.  She won the 2012 Siebert Medal for her intricate and impeccably-researched Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, which profiled Tony Sarg and the celebrated helium balloons synonymous with the famed department store’s festive event.  She soon teamed up with Bryant again for another ravishing biography, A Splash of Red, which lovingly chronicled the inspirational life and work of the painter Horace Pippin.  In that book the artist used watercolor and gouache to stunning effect.  In 2014 she showed herself to be at the peak of her powers with two masterpieces – another biographical collaboration with Bryant on Peter Mark Roget, the father of the thesaurus, titled The Right Word, and earlier in the year, a partnership with the poet Paul B. Janeczko that yielded one of the most spectacular and lyrical picture books in years. (more…)

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