7.24.2016

Dorothea's Eyes

Dorothea Lange
Photographs the Truth

Calkins Creek
(published 3.1.2016)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Barb Rosenstock
and Illustrator: Gerard DuBois

C character: Dorothea Lange
                 
O verview from the jacket flap:

"From the time she was a little girl, Dorothea Lange saw the world with her eyes and her heart. Before she ever owned a camera, she knew she was born to be a photographer. It didn't matter that polio made it difficult for her to walk. It didn't matter that girls weren't supposed to be photographers.
     To take her pictures, Dorothea deliberately blended into the background. She used her phtogorsaphs to tell the stories of the people the world ignored - the homeless, the jobless, the poor.
    In this powerful and inspiring book, Barb Rosenstock and Gerard DuBois reveal the story of Dorothea's remarkable life and illuminate how her photographs continue to tell the world the truth."

T antalizing taste:

   "Dorothea leaves her comfortable life and takes her camera on the road. She scans dirt lanes, peers down back paths, and squints up broken stops. Fathers stoop in fields, working for pennies. Mothers nurse sick children, lying thirsty in makeshift tents. Whole families live in jalopies - blown out by the dust storms wracking the land. 
     Dorothea limps [from childhood polio] toward these hungry strangers. 
     Her heart knows all about people the world ignores."

and something more: I was interested to learn from the back matter of Dorothea's Eyes that Dorothea Lange's "photographs influenced John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath and Lange is listed in The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time by Deborah Felder. Despite decades of ill health from ulcers and post-polo syndrome, Dorothea Lange continued photographing faces - from strangers on five continents to her adored grandchildren - until the end of her life."  And as a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art docent, I am pleased that I can now share more about Dorothea Lange with students who visit the museum and see the photos by Dorothea Lange.

6.27.2016

Cloth Lullaby

The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Abrams Books for Young Readers
(published 3.1.2016)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Amy Novesky
and Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault

C haracters: Louise Bourgeois
                 

O verview from Abrams Books for Young Readers website:

"Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a world-renowned modern artist noted for her sculptures made of wood, steel, stone, and cast rubber Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high.

Just as spiders spin and repair their webs, Louise's own mother was a weaver of tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric through her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois's childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.".

T antalizing taste:

"Louise kept diaries of her days. And in a cloth tent pitched in the garden, she and her siblings would stay till the dark surprised them, the light from the house, and the sound of a a Verdi opera, far away through the trees.

Sometimes, they'd spend the night, and Louise would study the web of stars, imagine her place in the universe, and weep, then fall asleep to the rhythmic rock and murmur of river water.

The river provided flowers and fruit, a lullaby, and a livelihood.

Louise's family restored tapestries - art woven from wool - and the wool loved the tannin-rich water, which cleansed and strengthened it, and allowed it to soak up color."

and something more:  I feel so fortunate to have read, early on, a draft of Amy's amazing book in which she wove together her poetic evocative words. Amy shared with me what inspired her to write this book:  "The inspiration for this book came from a 2004 New York Times article about Louise Bourgeois’s cloth work. I immediately fell in love with her fabric odes, whose colorful graphic and tactile shapes resonated with me, and, I thought would with young readers. But I didn’t find my way into the story until years later when I discovered a monograph of her cloth work at the Sausalito Library. While the book was 12 years in the making (!), I wrote the story in a week."

I heartily concur with the New York Times review: "Novesky's writing is alert to young readers' voracious appetite for the aliveness of language. The story is strewn with beautiful, pleasantly challenging words ('indigo,' 'fragments,' trousseau'), words that have earned the right to make themselves at home in a child's imagination ... Cloth Lullaby is one of the loveliest picture books I've encountered - a tender homage to an extraordinary woman."

5.23.2016

You Can Fly

The Tuskegee Airmen

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(published 5.3.2016)
96 pages
Ages 9 - 12

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Carole Boston Weatherford
      and Illustrator: Jeffery Boston Weatherford

C haracters: The Tuskegee Airmen
                

O verview from the jacket flap:

    "I WANT YOU! says the poster of Uncle Sam. But if you're a young black man in 1940, he doesn't want you in the cockpit of a warplane. Yet you are determined not to let that stop your dream of flying.
     So when you hear about a civilian pilot training program at Tuskegee Institute, you leap at the chance. Soon you are learning engineering and mechanics, how to communicate in code, how to read a map. At last the day you have longed for is here: You are flying!
     From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems that allow readers to fly too, award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Boston Weatherford, to tell the story of these men who triumphed in the skies and over the color barrier."

T antalizing taste:

No Hero's Welcome


No use candy-coating the truth:
Gasoline and sugar were rationed
during the war, and metal was reserved
for the defense industry,
but racism was never in short supply.
There was plenty of prejudice to go around
and you don't have to look far to find it
even after you get home.

You pass through South Carolina;
you see places that bar blacks
serving German prisoners of war.
You get wind of the Freeman Field Mutiny:
Pilots from the 477th Bombardment Group,
who never got to see combat before war's end,
got arrested in Indiana for storming 
into the all-white officers' club.

Your fight is by no means finished." 

and something more:  I was honored to be asked by Carole Boston Weatherford to feature her compelling book, YOU CAN FLY, on my blog as part of her blog book tour. She shared interesting information about the book:

"I had not heard of the Tuskegee Airmen until I was in my mid-twenties. I was in awe. Thirty years later I decided to write about these American heroes. I am still amazed by the barriers that they overcame and the battles that they won.

I wanted the verse novel to unfold like a newsreel or a graphic novel. Dramatic scratchboard illustrations by my son Jeffery Weatherford create that effect, evoking the World War II era.

The Tuskegee Airmen—pilots and ground crew—are truly American heroes, deserving wider recognition. I hope that You Can Fly helps achieve that."

Carole's "10 Things I Learned About the Tuskegee Airmen":

* Before the Tuskegee Experiment began, there were only 130 licensed African American pilots in the U.S.

* After a plane ride with Tuskegee flight instructor Chief Anderson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You can fly.” She swayed her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt to authorize the Tuskegee Experiment, giving African Americans a shot at becoming combat pilots.

* Pioneering entertainer Lena Horne made numerous trips—at her own expense—to perform for troops at Tuskegee Army Air Field.

* The Tuskegee Airmen got the name Red Tails when their ground crew painted the tail of the P-47 red. The Nazis called them Black Birdmen/Schwarze Vogelmenshen.

* On July 21, 1943, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 13 missions in one day.

* Of their 205 missions, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 without losing a bomber.

* In 1,500 combat missions, Tuskegee Airmen blasted 262 German planes, 950 vehicles and one enemy destroyer.

* Of nearly 1,000 Tuskegee pilots, half went overseas and fewer than 10 were captured or killed.

* Tuskegee Airman Lee Archer Jr., an ace pilot, shot down four enemy planes.

* The Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George Bush in 2007.

Carole also shared her book trailer and teacher resources. 

And kudos to Reka Simonsen, Executive Editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers for this terrific book and thank you for giving me a copy.

4.18.2016

Jazz Day

The Making of a
Famous Photograph

Candlewick Press
(published 3.8.2016) 66 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Roxane Orgill
      and Illustrator: Francis Vallejo

C haracters: Jazz musicians & photographer Art Kane
                

O verview from the jacket flap:

    "In 1958, Esquire magazine was planning a special issue focused on American jazz. Art Kane, a graphic designer in New York City, pitched a crazy idea: gather a many jazz musicians as were willing and photograph the group. Kane got the assignment - but he didn't own a professional camera, he didn't know how many musicians would show up, and he wanted to shoot the photograph in front of a Harlem brownstone. Would his idea work?

      Kane pulled it off, and in Jazz Day, Roxane Orgill takes us inside the frame of his famous photograph, Harlem 1958, with a collection of poems that re-creates that serendipitous day. She captures the musicians' mischief and quirks, their pleasure in seeing each other, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer's day. Francis Vallejo's vibrant paintings are reminiscent of a rich period in jazz history and do justice to the larger-that-life quality of the musicians of the era."

T antalizing taste:

 Names
William "Count" Basie, pianist

"Nobody calls me Bill
Except my wife
I'm the Count
Ol' Base
Or Holy Main
As in main stem
The buck stops here
Guys in the band
They give you a name
To fit your personality
Or your playing
Same thing
Dizzy
Fump
Stuff
Hawk
Hot Lips
Red
Pee Wee
Pres
Short for President
Of the Tenor Saxophone
Who's Lester Young
Got his name
From Eleanora
Known as Billie Holiday
Except to Pres
Who calls her Lady Day
He calls lots of people Lady
Even me"

and something more:  I love hearing about the background of a story and I believe certain stories do indeed tell their authors how they should be told. In the Author's Note in Jazz Day, Roxane Orgill explains that the "verses about the musicians are based on fact ... I've known of Art Kane's photograph for about as long as I've been listening to jazz, which I got to know as a sideline to my job as a classical music critic... I wanted to tell the story of how the photo got made and of some of the people who happened to be in it. What I didn't expect was that I'd begin writing poems. I write prose, not poetry But this story demanded a sense of freedom, an intensity, and a conciseness that prose could not provide."Yes! Prose poetry is perfect for this story.

4.03.2016

Emmanuel's Dream

The True Story of
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Schwartz & Wade Books
(published 1.6.2015)  40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Laurie Ann Thompson
      and Illustrator: Sean Qualls

C haracter: Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

O
verview from the jacket flap:

    "Here is the inspiring true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who cycled an incredible four hundred miles across Ghana - with only one strong leg - to spread his powerful message: disability doesn't mean inability."

T antalizing taste:

"In Ghana, West Africa, a baby boy was born:
Two bright eyes blinked in the light,
two healthy lungs let out a powerful cry,
two tiny fists opened and closed,
but only one strong leg kicked.

Most people thought he would be useless, or worse -
a curse.
His father left, never to return.
But his mother had faith...
Her name is Comfort,
and she named her first child Emmanuel,
meaning 'God is with us.'

As Emmanuel grew,
Mama Comfort told him he could have anything,
but he would have to get it for himself. 

He learned to crawl and hop,
to fetch water and climb
coconut trees.
He even shined shoes to earn money."

and something more: The Author's Note explains that in "2006, thanks in large part to Emmanuel's bike ride [in 2001 at the age of 24] and his continued political activism, the Ghanaian Parliament passed the Persons with Disability Act, which states that people with physical disabilities are entitled to all of the same rights as the rest of the country' citizens." His latest project focuses on building a school for children with and without disabilities.

A lovely quote by Emmanuel: "In this world, we are not perfect. We can only do our best."

3.07.2016

Drum Dream Girl

How One Girl's Courage
Changed Music

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

(published 3.31.2015) 48 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Margarita Engle
      and Illustrator: Rafael Lopez

C haracter: Milo Castro Zaldarriaga

O
verview from the jacket flap:

    "'Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music and rhythm, no one questioned that rule until the drum dream girl. She longed to play tall congas and small bongos and silvery, moon-bright timbales. She had to keep her dream quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that boys and girls should be free to drum and dream.
     Inspired by a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere."

T antalizing taste:

"When she walked under
wind-wavy palm trees
in a flower-bright park
she heard the whir of parrot wings
the clack of woodpecker beaks
the dancing tap of her own footsteps
and the comforting pat
of her own
heartbeat."

and something more: The Historical Note at the back of the book explains the background for this inspiring poem: "In 1932 at the age of ten, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga performed with her older sisters as Anacaona, Cuba's first 'all-girl dance band.' Millo became a world-famous musician, playing alongside all the American jazz greats of the era. At age fifteen, she played her bongo drums at a New York birthday celebration for U.S president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, where she was enthusiastically cheered by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. There are now many female drummers in Cuba."  This wonderfully lyrical book certainly makes me hope I will someday hear female drummers, in person in Cuba!

1.18.2016

enormous SMALLNESS

A Story of E. E. Cummings

Enchanted Lion Books

(published 4.7.2015) 64 pages 

A True Tale with Cherry On Top 

A author: Matthew Burgess
      and Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo 

C character: E. E. Cummings

O verview from the jacket flap: 

    "'There once was a boy with a big imagination who loved to play tag, climb trees, and gaze out of his window. Inspired by the world around him, he expressed his excitement in pictures and poems. Before he could even write, he played with words and said poems aloud. And when he got older, he filled page after page with poems.

This sensitive and spirited glimpse into the life of E. E. Cummings ... is a lively story starring Edward Estlin, the playful child fascinated by words, who will grow up to become one of America's most beloved poets. Some of Cummings' most wonderful poems are integrated seamlessly into the story..."

T antalizing taste: 

"When Estlin was eleven,
his favorite teacher, Miss Maria Baldwin,
noticed his wonderful way with words
and encouraged him.
From her, Estlin learned that

anything is possible,
as long as you are true to yourself
and never give up, even when the world
seems to say, stop! 

... Using a style all his own,
e. e. put lowercase letters where capitals normally go,
and his playful punctuation grabbed reader attention.

His poems were alive
        with experimentation
                    and surprise!

And because of his love for lowercase letters,
his name began to appear with two little e's (& a little c, too)."

and something more: I'm always intrigued by the author's connection to a story, and Matthew Burgess shares a wonderful story in his "author's note" (note that it's all in lower case): "In June, 2007, I was invited to lead a 'literary walk' of Greenwich Village. I had never given a tour before, so I took photographs of the buildings on the route and wrote notes on the back for reference. A few days later, a I stood on the stoop of 4 Patching Place, anxiously trying to remember snippets of E E. Cummings' life story to share with the assembled group, the front door swung open. A woman and a boy emerged, and by a stroke of luck, the woman happened to be friends with someone in our group [and she invited them inside.] 

Suddenly, the twelve of us were filing up the tiled narrow staircase andante the room where Cummings had worked for almost forty years. The windows opened to trees and birdsong, and the summer light filtered in. The room showed all the telltale signs of a young boy's bedroom, but it wasn't difficult to imagine E. E. Cummings writing and painting there...

Three years later, when my publisher, Claudia Zoe Bedrick, asked me if I would be interested in writing picture book about E. E. Cummings, I remember that day at Patching Place, and I sensed another door opening. E. E. Cummings was one of the first poets to make a strong impression on me when I was a child, and the memory of visiting his home felt like an auspicious sign."

Serendipity indeed!