Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Give Thanks for Illustrators

What a treat our K-3 students had last week! Keika Yamaguchi, illlustrator of Puddle Pug and Sick of Being Sick, talked to our four K-3 classes (nearly 100 students) about her work as an illustrator. She also read the book Puddle Pug, and left each class with some original artwork.

During her presentation, Keika displayed some of her childhood drawings and told the students that as a child she didn't think she was a good artist- so her parents did drawing assignments for her. When she received so many compliments on "her" artwork, she became concerned that someone would discover her secret. So she practiced and grew better. She led the students in a discussion about what they found difficult (one boy said learning how to play baseball) and let them know that practice would help them improve. When Keika was five, she and her family moved from Japan to the United States. While learning English, she used her art to make friends

Using slides and original art work, students were able to follow Keika's illustrative process for Puddle Pug from early sketches to revisions to final product. Students were delighted to find out that Keika actually played with mud, splattering it on paper to see what it ooked like so she could paint it more realistically in her illustrations.  

Students had time to ask questions and found out that Keika is working on two picture books due out next year. She showed the students a few illustrations from each book. 

Lastly, based on students suggestions, Keika created a poster sized Percy for each class, adapting each one to students' responses to her questions.

Keika's informative and kid-friendly visit was engaging, well paced, and enjoyed by all. In addition to learning more about the illustrator's role in a book, students also learned a few valuable life skills: something difficult can be perfected with practice and there's a process involved to many projects that requires creative exploration and revision before completion.

For days after the visit, parents told me how much their children loved the visit. Our annual book fair coincided with her visit and her books sold like hotcakes!

We look forward to a future visit from our new friend, Keika

Visit Keika's website to learn more about her work.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A new series for young independent readers ... from the team that brought you Rapunzel and Calamity Jack.

Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candelwick, 2014. Reviewed by parent and library volunteer, Jasmine George.

The Princess in Black is a charming read that turns the typical princess tale on it's head.  The book tells the story of Princess Magnolia, who at first glance seems to be your run of the mill, frilly dress-wearing, sparkly tiara-sporting princess.  She is at her castle enjoying scones and hot chocolate with the very traditional and very nosy Duchess Wingtower, when her monster alarm rings.  After awkwardly excusing herself, she sheds her frilly pink dress and becomes the Princess in Black; a wall-scaling, horse-riding, monster-wrestling heroine.  As the Princess in Black, she must contend not only with protecting the kingdom from the monsters who occasionally venture out from beneath the ground in search of goats to eat, she must also work to hide her secret identity from the prying eyes of Duchess Wingtower.  The Duchess believes everyone has something to hide, and is determined to prove that Princess Magnolia is not as proper and perfect as she seems.  This book is less about challenging gender roles and more about challenging expectations in general.  Best suited for children ages 4 to 8 years, The Princess in Black is sure to delight as it invites readers to explore their own self-identity and explore the ways in which they do or do not fit the perceptions that others (parents, teachers, etc.) may have of them.  

Thanks to Candlewick Press for the giveaway copy and to Jasmine George for reading and reviewing it. Please visit their  Princess in Black website. for more information about this book including "Seven Things You Didn't Know About the Princess in Black." Also Visit Shannon Hale's Official Website to learn more about the author and her books.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flashback Friday: a swashbuckling tale with an unlikely heroine

Bloody Jack: being an account of the curious adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, a ship's boy by L. A. Meyer,  Harcourt, 2002. Highly recommended, appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Set in 18th century England,  a thirteen-year-old orphan, Jacky Faber, signs up as ship's boy aboard the HMS Dolphin. Spunky and clever, Jacky quickly learns that life aboard an 18th century British navy vessel, chasing pirates, can be dangerous. But that's nothing compared to what might happen if someone figures out that Jacky is really a girl. For those children who enjoyed Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avon, 1990) and are ready for something more robust and mature,  I highly recommend Meyer's swashbuckling and adventurous sea tale.   His attention to historical and period detail gives the story an authentic voice without overwhelming it. Oh, and Jacky is in touch with her feminine side-- there's a bit of romance, too. The tenth title in the series, Wild Rover No More was released posthumously and that is how I found out that (much to my shock and dismay) that Meyer passed away this past July. The last title, ironically, hints that Jacky's luck may have (finally) run out.

 Publisher's Weekly  wrote a brief but engaging article about him and included a wonderful story on what inspired this series.