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Archive for January 31st, 2015

number one sam

by Sam Juliano

Number One Sam’s racing car exponent’s entire life centers around sporting triumphs.  This theme of competition and winning at all costs is explored in this irresistible picture book by Greg Pizzoli, one that re-emphasizes a time-worn adage on sportsmanship and the insignificance of competitive prowess, when it goes up against life’s far more vital concerns.  Pizzoli, who last year treated kids and picture book aficionados to the Geisel award-winning The Watermelon Seed – a vibrantly colored work about a watermelon-loving crocodile who becomes distraught after swallowing a seed, believing it will grow inside of him – has again offered up a real charmer that holds up repeatedly to classroom employment. (more…)

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sam cover

by Sam Juliano

What often seems to get lost in the shuffle is that the two initially intrepid protagonists of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s exceedingly popular Sam & Dave Dig A Hole are a model duo of ineptitude.  Like a good stage mystery where the audience knows more than the interacting characters, readers get the advantage of seeing what Sam and Dave continue to barely avoid, even while their wily dog is on to what its masters, farcically missed by earthy inches.  Diamonds are above, below and to the side of them.  When they get really close to shoveling into them dead-on, they take  a snack break and dubiously change directions, while their ever-astute pooch easily enough senses what they continue to avoid.  As the folly of their The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Shoot Straight-style exploits become more pronounced Klassen gives visual enhancement by making the diamonds bigger and bigger.  In one instance when their treasure is just about staring them in the face (three-quarters of a double page spread is occupied by a colossal sized jewel) they re-direct their focus, while the canine friend looks squarely at the find, no doubt thinking “How stupid can you guys be?”  Eventually these dirty faced prospectors’ arduous excavation forces them to take a rest that soon enough leads to deep sleep. (more…)

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victoria cover

by Sam Juliano

Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and 7 months is the longest in British history.  The era that bears her name is remembered for Pax Brittanica, a time of peace, prosperity and confidence.  The time was noted for industrial advancements and for the great literature that was written during the peak years of her power.  Victoria is too-often regarded as a stodgy monarch with stiff upper lip and humorless personality.  Yet Gloria Whelan and Nancy Carpenter takes a much lighter approach to how the queen maintained a far more disarming lifestyle away from the eyes of the public.  In free-wheeling, whimsical verse Whelan sets up the mise en scene straight away:

Queen Victoria looked out to sea/It was blue, it was cool, it was nice as could be/The day was so hot; the sun so bright/Her petticoats itched and her corset was tight/She whispered a wish, it was only a whim/”How grand it would be to go for a swim.”

To accentuate the joyful, even irreverent demeanor of the queen’s fun-loving kids, who are undaunted by the stately behavior expected of the royals, Carpenter visualizes a state of domestic anarchy.   Hence, the ink and watercolor art that is captured digitally always keeps a special eye for the humorous possibilities of each tapestry.  After the Queen conveys her fancy her lady-in-waiting collapses, stating unabashedly: “It would be a disgrace to see more of the queen than her hands and her face.”  The queen backs off, realizing that she’d have to wear all her petticoats, dresses and shoes if she were to to swim in the ocean, and that wouldn’t be very practical.  Prince Albert (one recalls all the self-annointed geniuses in James Thurber’s Caldecott Medal winning Many Moons) decides to search for a way to allow Her Majesty to indulge in her aquatic passions “while keeping the populace from glimpsing your knees.”  He enters the royal library, a real hotbed of familial interaction (one of Carpenter’s most delightful spreads shows Victoria in a pink dress fanning herself on a couch while one son plays chess with an attendant, another sits on a twirling globes, while a boy makes faces behind a telescope negotiated by his sister and another daughter engages with a sling shot.  A younger child is busy with a quilt pen and a parchment on the floor.  Albert suggests a devise that hurls heavy rocks in the air, but Victoria is afraid she might be the victim of target practice.  Then a sudden revelation: (more…)

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