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Archive for January 16th, 2015

daddy hugs cover

by Sam Juliano

One of children literature’s most renowned artists, Nancy Tafuri, fits the bill as one of the most under awarded for her rich, formidable and prolific body of work.  She did win a Caldecott Honor for one of the most perfect picture books of all-time – Have You Seen My Duckling? in 1984 – but subsequent books like The Busy Little Squirrel, I Love You Little One, Blue Goose, Five Little Chicks, Will You Be My Friend?, Counting to Christmas, This is the Farmer and some others are all Caldecott friendly books that have proven to be wildly popular with the lowest grade students.  Tafuri works solo on her books, authoring and illustrating, and her output in both capacities is beautifully coordinated, always giving children a richly emotional experience.  Almost always working on glorious over-sized panels, her pencil sketch watercolor illustrations, always marvelously detailed, are bold and negotiated with earthy textures that unfailingly make you want to rub the paper between your hands every time you pick up one of her books.  There is no artist out there, whose books feel quite the same as Nancy Tafuri’s, but that is after all a large part of her sensory appeal.  She is a true original who stays the course, knowing like Puccini that her biggest fans of all are the ones who take in her work for multiple sittings.  The public has made its feelings known, and her books remain as popular in the classroom today as any other single artist in the field.  If kids were appointed to the Caldecott committee, she’d probably have at least three gold medals by now.  Daddy Hugs is actually one of two superlative releases this past year that has dealt with the act of “hugging” whether among animals or the human variety.  Scott Campbell’s effervescent The Hug Machine (a review of that book is upcoming in this series) explores similar energies and inclinations, though Tafuri’s book more pointedly examines familial bonds. (more…)

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emerson cover

Insist on yourself; never imitate.

by Sam Juliano

Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham collaborated on the Sibert Honor-winning What To Do About Alice?, a visually sumptuous and engagingly written biographical account of the precocious oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt.  They followed that distinguished achievement with dynamic and equally exquisite books on Mark Twain and Revolutionary War heroes John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Back in March they extended this acclaimed historical series  with A Home For Mr. Emerson, a biographical account of the iconic transcendentalist and lecturer who espoused individulity and freedom, and who wrote some of the most celebrated essays ever by an American, including “Nature” and “The American Scholar.”

Though Emerson’s early years were rife with relocation, he was a carefree and jovial child.  He attended college, met his soul mate Lydia (who called her new husband Mr. Emerson) and set up camp in Concord among the  trees and flowers and a vast collection of books.  Planting and reading took all his time in what surely was an idyllic environment and state of mind.  He set up a study in a specious farmhouse and became involved in the community.  He made new friends, joined the fire department and was appointed “hog reeve.”  He and his wife (whom he nicknamed “Queenie”) raised three children.  Emerson often strolled through his orchards escorting his kids on this special immersion with nature.  He wrote down his thoughts about his outdoor meditations.  His parlor became a popular place for people near and afar.  Writes Kerley: (more…)

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