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Archive for January 16th, 2017

princess-1

by Sam Juliano

Duncan Tonatiuh’s emotionally enthralling The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes is quite simply one of the most staggeringly beautiful picture books of the year, and to date this acclaimed author-artist’s masterpiece.  Yet, because the competition for Caldecott acknowledgement is so crowded in a year with multiple treasures this exquisite work seems to be lurking rather than making a serious intrusion on the various on-line prediction round-ups as the date of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Award announcements is now as of this writing only one week away.  No discussion of the year’s most notable pictorial achievements, however,  can possibly exclude this magisterial Mexican folktale with a tragic denouement.  The story arc persuasively recalls narrative elements from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, and the heroic subtext bears similarities to stories dating back to ancient Egypt and the Bible.  But Tonatiuh’s melancholic transcription is pointedly based on an Aztec legend of the two volcanoes -Iztaccihautl and Popocatepetl which are located about forty miles southeast of Mexico City, previously the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.  In an afterward Tonatiuh relates that the beauty of these mountains left its mark on both the Aztecs and those who lived nearby over the succeeding generations.  It “inspired a number of storytellers, poets, painters and photographers” says Tonatiuh, who adds “others have created pieces of art to honor the magnificent mountains.”  The author notes at the outset that the latter of the two remains an active volcano to the present date, and a 2013 mild eruption has been recorded. (more…)

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hidden-figures

by Sam Juliano

We are five days away from the Trump presidency and many of us are still trying to figure out how and why.  But we are there and must come to terms with could well be one of the darkest spans in recent history.  Speaking for myself though I am willing to wait, and hope that far more good comes out of this once unfathomable situation than most might think.  Friday morning’s inauguration is sure to be quite the event, and one doomed to attract fervent protests all over the map.  Stay tuned.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series has reached the last leg of its long and prolific journey, with six more days including today left to “spread the word.”  My projection is for it to end with fifty-eight essays completed.  As of this morning we have had fifty-two.  Thank you many times over to Jim Clark, Laurie Buchanan, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Peter M., Tony d’Ambra, Celeste Fenster, Duane Porter, Tim McCoy, Karen,  Wendy Wahmann, Nancy Armo, Ricky C., Kimbra Power, Book Barn Steve, Alia Jones, David Noack,  Jarie Waterfall, Sharon Lovejoy,  and others for their remarkable support in the comment threads.  And to all those who have registered ‘likes’ I am deeply appreciative.  The Facebook ‘likes’ that are on the linked reviews too are much appreciated.

My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to my friend and colleague on his family loss.  He is going through the worst time of his life, and I grieve with him at this unspeakable time. (more…)

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voyage

by Sam Juliano

The 2006 Caldecott Medal committee awarded one of their four honor citations to Hot-Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman.  The events in that whimsically illustrated picture book, one where fact and fiction meet, predate by two years the historic international balloon flight across the English Channel in A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785, a 2016 picture book by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall.  As per their pointed titles both books admit to a degree of fabrication, and the newer book even makes mention of the sheep that was aboard the earlier flight.  The other significant similarity between the books is the quality of the art.  Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall’s tidy watercolor pastels are a perfect fit for the period decor, especially the eighteenth-century clothing and uniforms.  Blackall again treats readers to vivid colorful tapestries in tandem with another superlative authorship by Matthew Olshan, who previously collaborated with her on the wildly popular The Mighty Lalouche, another period piece, set in France in the early 1900’s.  The narrative highlights an amusing ongoing row between the financial backer of the planned venture, an Englishman named Dr. John Jeffries and his pilot, a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, both of whom feel they should be calling the shots.  In the end, like the contentious canines in the 1953 Caldecott Medal winning Finders Keepers by Will and Nichols, they must pool pool their resources and ingenuity to stave off disaster, a resolve that forges a friendship. (more…)

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