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Archive for January 27th, 2019

by Sam Juliano

Jillian Tamaki and her cousin Mariko Tamaki were awarded a surprise Caldecott Honor a few year back for their 2015 graphic novel, This One Summer,  The win was the first in the history of the awards for that form and for many represented one of the boldest steps forward for the committee, who risked controversy by bestowing the prestigious prize on a book squarely aimed at the uppermost end of the Caldecott audience, the earliest teenagers.  The book featured mature themes and very strong language, yet few could deny it’s brilliance both from a writing and artistic perspective.   Of course, bringing attention to the graphic novel from a  group almost exclusively attuned to the conventional picture book (understandably) was a major inroad towards pictorial diversity and it has opened the door to other possibilities on that front.  But those impressed with that work and other books by these exceedingly talented Japanese-Americans could never have envisioned the masterpiece that appeared in picture book land in early 2018.  To be sure They Say Blue is a solo effort by Jillian, who illustrated This One Summer.  The book has earned spectacular raves, is poised as one of the front runners for the one of the Caldecotts to be announced on the morning of Monday, January 28th, 2019 (a short time from the publication of this review) and hand landed on the end of the year Best-Of lists posted by children’s book critics and sites as well as a major picture book award last year from the Boston Horn Book, whose rules have some time overlap.  At least one major luminary, who has served on previous committees, Travis Jonker, has predicted the book would be in the winner’s circle when the announcements are made in a post at the School Library Journal.  Few books released this past year are as beautiful on every turn of the page, nor are as fully attuned and immersed in the theme which is maintained from title page to the final glorious spread.  The method to produce this frame-worthy art are says Tamaki, on the dedication page at the end is a combination of acrylic paint on watercolor paper and photoshop.  This intricate method has produced breathtaking illustrations which are diverse, multicolored and textured to a fault. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

I Am Heathcliff –  Catherine Earnshaw, Wuthering Heights

Centuries ago long names were all the rage.  The immortal composer Mozart was actually baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilis Mozart, but that’s small potatoes compared to the great Spanish painter Picasso whose full name was “Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios cipriando de la Santisimo Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.”  Long names are associated with reverence, respect and as a tribute to family members dating back generations, many of whom made a difference in the upbringing and maturation of their offspring.  Those children sporting extended names may well at some early stage inquire about their origins and a parent’s full disclosure is one of those indelible moments in a life one can deem priceless.  In Juana Martinez-Neal’s affectionate and moving debut picture book as author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name is a loving chronicle of familial connection, spurred by curiosity but leading to an understanding of the past and the people who molded their children, grandchildren and nieces.  In Martinez-Neal’s stirring homage it is revealed that every part of this hereditary equation brings to bear a quality into a melting pot of positive traits and convictions.  Once the back stories are revealed the names take on an even more special meaning.  Martinez-Neal’s graphite, colored pencils and print transfers on handmade textured paper seems the ideal way to negotiate a story mainly set in the past, and what with old photo illustrations there is a scrapbook quality in the presentation.  Accentuating this aspect is parched beige and pink, which underline gender and a deep emotional current. (more…)

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