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Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers

14 Apr

In honor of National Poetry Month and Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m shining the spotlight on a brilliant Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award Winner from 1997:

“They took to the road in Waycross, Georgia

Skipped over the tracks in East St. Louis

Took the bus from Holly Springs

Hitched a ride from Gee’s Bend

Took the long way through Memphis

The third deck down from Trinidad

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island 

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island

To a place called Harlem

Harlem was a promise

Of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t

Have to know his place

Simply because he was Black.”

 

Thus begins a tactile and rhythmic journey through Harlem. This book may have been written twenty years ago, but it feels quite contemporary. Current nonfiction writers are increasingly telling the stories of people, events, or places with similar atmospheric details and poetic language. Walter Dean Myers was far ahead of his time.  

The only thing missing is back matter. The names of people and places are sprinkled throughout, but if you want to know more, you must do the research. If this book were being published in 2017, you can bet the back matter would be rich with details, including a timeline with key events and people as well as author/illustrator notes. 

Although Walter Dean Myers has passed, I would love to see a new edition of this book published, complete with back matter and an illustrator’s note from Christopher Myers, Walter’s son. 

The collage illustrations add so much texture to the poem that I would recommend reading the picture book. However, if you just want to immerse yourself in Myers’ poem, here’s a link to the text of “Harlem” online. 

Title: Harlem

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Illustrator: Christopher Myers

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997

Target Audience: Everyone

USA Election – The Graphic Novel

9 Nov

This is the United States of America:

 

This was the USA during the presidential campaign:

51518137 - broken heart icon. flat design vector illustration with long shadow. happy valentine day and love symbol.

This is the USA today:

52854194 - broken red heart isolated on white background

This is my dream for the USA:

To get there, this needs to happen:

And then we’ve got to stop doing this:

And start doing this:

The END

Parts and Even More Parts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

22 Apr

So you’re looking for a couple of books from a brilliant author/illustrator? Ones that will make kids say “ewwww” page after page, all while laughing uproariously? Ones that kids will want to read again and again and again because each little twist is ingenious?

Tedd Arnold’s will do the trick:

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For the most part, his rhyme is spot on,

“I just don’t know what’s going on

or why it has to be.

But every day it’s something worse.

What’s happening to me?”

 

but purists will note that the rhyme on the second spread is—inverted! **!!Gasp!!**

“I think it was three days ago

I first became aware—

That in my comb were caught a couple

pieces of my hair.”

 

Now, one could argue that this book was published in 1997 and the rhyme police have gotten much more strict in recent years. But I will tell you that if you’re an author-illustrator and you come up with something as original as:

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“Then later on (I don’t recall

exactly when it was)

I lifted up my shirt and found

this little piece of fuzz.”

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“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,

What’s this all about?

But then I understood. It was

my stuffing coming out!”

Editors may give you a “Get Out of Rhyme Jail Free” pass. Page after page of inspired body part distress.

Not content with one body part book, Arnold published a second called “More Parts” (not reviewed here), and a third called “Even More Parts” in 2004. Originally published under the “Dial Books for Young Readers Imprint,” they are now published by Puffin.

“Even More Parts” takes a literal look at body part idioms and their horrifying consequences.

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Tongue-tied, anyone?

Although each page includes small comics of several idioms for each body part, Arnold selects the funniest to fill the spreads. The end papers include mini illustrations of many more. Bonus: All of these books should engage even the most reluctant readers AND PARENTS.  

“Even More Parts” could also be used to support Common Core Curriculum in kindergarten through second grade.

Check them out!

Titles: “Parts” & “And Even More Parts”

Author/Illustrator: Tedd Arnold

Publisher: Puffin

Ages: preschool-second grade

This post is in conjunction with Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Illustrator Influence

17 Apr

My 11-yr-old son has discovered Russ Cox, a wonderful illustrator. You can see his work at Smiling Otis Studio. 

[Yes, Mike Allegra (HeyLookAWriterFellow), Otis was one of Russ’s cats. They’re everywhere! And BTW, a mouse snuck into our pantry and tore into the brown sugar, dried beans, and pancake mix. I’m thinking we’ve got a diabetic mouse on our hands. Otis, where are you? We need you! Seriously, we’ll be getting out the live-trapper to capture this critter and let him loose in a neighborhood park.]

Anyway, I digress. My son wasn’t consciously thinking about one of Russ’s drawings  when he drew this on a paper tablecloth at a restaurant last week:

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Organic meets inorganic

If you look at Russ’s black and white work, you may find something that looks a bit like this guy. 

Happy Illustrator Day! (just thought I’d make up a new holiday)

 

Josephine Baker Rocks!

11 Jun

A fabulous illustrator, Christian Robinson, recently held our school’s “itchy-britches-is-it-summer-yet” children spellbound.

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Christian Robinson

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Drawing activities

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“Draw my voice”

If you aren’t familiar with Christian’s work, you should check out his website and marvel at his range. 

And if you happened to “Google” anything on this past Martin Luther King Day, you most likely noticed Christian’s “Google Doodle,” honoring Dr. King.

But I digress. I want to highlight a post from an indie book blogger, The Picture Book Life, that shines the spotlight on Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (recent recipient of a Horn Book Honor).

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The Picture Book Life justifies the claim that many picture books are not “just” for kids.

I’d had a conversation with the Chronicle Books Children’s Editor, Melissa Manlove, earlier this year at an SCBWI event. She said that if someone had told her she’d fall in love with and want to publish an 4,000 word children’s picture book about a woman who was famous for dancing without her clothes—well, you already know the end of what she was going to say.

Josephine Baker was ever so much more than that. Josephine is lyrically written and fabulously illustrated and should be a “must read” addition to everyone’s shelves. Check out a detailed review of the book, complete with illustrations, at The Picture Book Life

Celebrate Dueling Doodlers!

8 Apr

 

My 10-yr-old son, the cat lover

vs.

Mike Allegra (HeyLookAWriterFellow), the rodent lover

 

Mike posted the “naughty kitten” doodle he drew (reluctantly) for my son, and in return, Mike received a tribute to furry creatures with front teeth that never stop growing.

 

Celebrate Mice!

Celebrate Mice! (Watch Your Tail!!)

My iPhone photo of a copy of the original turned the cheese a bit green, but I’m sure the mouse doesn’t care.

Mike is still waiting to tear into the chocolate I sent him for winning the What Do David Shannon and My Son Have in Common?  competition, because he gave up chocolate for Lent, poor guy.

Sniff, sniff, as the mouse says….Better check your cupboards, Mike, to make sure the chocolate hasn’t been nibbled away by those nefarious critters! (Or your son)

What do David Shannon and My Son Have in Common?

19 Feb

According to my 10-year-old son, the American Revolution can be distilled to four panels (click photo to enlarge):

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History of the American Revolution

He loved drawing this cartoon and spent a couple of joyful hours completely absorbed in his work. Note that the Loyalist character’s voice comes from off the page, showing how the Loyalists either operated under cover, “lost their shirts,” or returned to England.

But it wasn’t until much later that he noticed that the British musket in the second panel doesn’t match the musket shown in the fourth. He asked if this was a big mistake. In his case, I said “no,” but then I went on to describe a recent case taken from the adult world:

David Shannon gave a keynote talk this past weekend at the Golden Gate SCBWI conference where he showed his book, Duck on a Bike (2006), to the audience. Continue reading

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