11.28.2016

Antsy Ansel

Ansel Adams:
A Life In Nature

Christy Ottaviano Books
(Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan)
(published 9.6.2016)
32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor:
Cindy Jenson-Elliott
      and Illustrator:  Christy Hale

C haracter: Ansel Adams

O
 verview from the jacket flap

    "As a child, Ansel Adams just couldn't sit still. He felt trapped indoors and never walked anywhere - he ran. Even when he sat, his feet danced. But in nature, Ansel felt right at home. He fell in love with the gusting gales of the Golden Gate, the quiet whisper of Lobos Creek, the icy white of Yosemite Valley, and countless other remarkable natural sights.
     From his early days in San Francisco to the height of his glory nationwide, this book chronicles a restless boy's path to becoming an iconic nature photographer."
    
T antalizing taste
    
    "When Ansel was fourteen, his aunt gave him a book about Yosemite Valley. Ansel begged for a visit. The trip took two days by steam engine train and open-air bus.
     At Valley View, Ansel got his first glimpse of Yosemite Valley - the ripple-rush-ROAR! of water and light! Light! Light!
     It was love at first sight.
     One morning during the trip, Ansel's parents gave him a camera.
     He was off -
     Run-leap-scramble - SNAP!
     Rapid-rumble-tumble - RACE!
     Swoosh- flutter-flit - FLEE!
     Ansel's photos became a journal of everything he saw.
     From then on, Ansel went to Yosemite, camera in hand, to hike the High Sierra
     in summer light,
      icy white,
        glowing dawn,
          breathless height,
            danger by day,
              sparkling night,
                worlds of wonder - snap! -
                  in black and white."

and something more: I was excited to learn that ANTSY ANSEL was published by Christy Ottaviano Books, the incredible editor/publisher of my upcoming picture book biography MAYA LIN : ARTIST-ARCHITECT OF LIGHT AND LINES. I reached out to the author and illustrator of ANTSY ANSEL and asked if they would share some thoughts about their wonderful book. Thank you very much, Cindy and Christy! So much fascinating information!

Cindy Jenson-Elliott
"Here's my Antsy Ansel story. I am a teacher, environmental educator and garden teacher. Many of my books have to do with nature, or are designed to inspire families and teachers to head outside with children.  A few years ago, I went to an inspiring lecture by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. The lecture focused on his second book, The Nature Principle, in which he talks about how people of all ages have been saved by their contact with nature. He mentioned Ansel Adams, how he had been, by his own reckoning, hyperactive, and how his father had taken him out of school and let him run around outside as part of his education. Immediately the words "Antsy Ansel" popped into my head. I was so inspired by his story that when the lecture was over, I went home and began to research his life.

As I read Ansel Adams's autobiography --  full of  gorgeous language -- I felt an overwhelming urge to let his life inspire others. As I wrote, I tried to create Ansel's experience of the world -- how his attention flitted from one thing to the next, and how sensory stimuli bombarded him wherever he went. I tried to capture how trapped he felt indoors and how free he felt outside. I wanted readers to be with Ansel as  he felt the pounding roar of the waves at the beach, and the calming flicker of nature in his own backyard at Lobos Creek. I wanted them to feel what he felt. I had two mentors who helped me shape and reshape the story with this in mind -- Joy Chu, a book designer who had a good sense of how a story can support visual elements, and Andrea Zimmerman, a children's book author who worked endless hours with me to help me get it right.

Another connection I have with Ansel Adams is a mutual love for Yosemite. We both went to Yosemite for the first time when we were 14 years old. I spent an unforgettable week with my junior high school class at the Yosemite Institute. It was really life changing for me to hike in the spring thaw, see wildflowers begin to unfold under the melting snow, feel the spray of waterfalls and smell the bay laurel growing by streams.  As an adult, I return to Yosemite yearly. Every summer --  since my children were very small,  my family has spent a week camping in the High Sierra in Tuolumne Meadows. As I researched Ansel, I realized that many of the places my family goes are featured in his photos. So that has been a  wonderful connection, too. I love Yosemite's high country, and I feel so lucky that I am able to share that love with others through this book."

Christy Hale:
" Here are a few of my many research discoveries as I worked on the illustrations:
·     Young Ansel had a calico cat named Tommy. Tommy is featured in the second scene. 
·     A friend and I took a walk through Ansel’s boyhood neighborhood in San Francisco. We saw the outside of his childhood home (unfortunately being renovated). We also walked by Lobos Creek and down to Baker Beach. In Ansel’s day he did not see this, but the view now includes the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course the neighborhood is very much changed from when Ansel was a boy, but it was fun to try to imagine his world.
·    I was able to peek inside Ansel’s boyhood home via the Ken Burns documentary on Ansel Adams. I tried to be true to the style of fireplace and furniture, as well as the positioning of the window in the living room.
·   I attended an exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915. I photographed a scaled model of all the buildings and grounds, so once again I tried to imagine being Ansel and walking through the World’s Fair.
 ·    I found actual footage of Ansel climbing Half Dome as a teenager."

11.14.2016

The First Step

How One Girl Put Segregation
on Trial

Bloomsbury Children's Books

(published 1.5.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Susan E. Goodman
      and Illustrator:  E. B Lewis

C haracter: Sarah Roberts

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston. Then one day she was told she could never come back. She didn't belong. The Otis School was for white children only.
     Sarah deserved an equal education, and the Roberts family fought for change. They made history.
     Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal system to outlaw segregated schools. It was the first time an African American lawyer argued in a supreme court.
     These first steps set in motion changes that ultimately led to equality under the law in the United States. Sarah's cause was won when people - black and white - stood together and said, No more. Now, right now, it is time for change! ... 
     Every big change starts with a first step.
    
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "On December 4, 1849, a heavy snow blanketed the city. Even a ferocious blizzard wouldn't have stopped people from flooding into the courthouse. So many of them were African American - dockworkers and washerwomen, barbers and blacksmiths - giving up a day's pay to be there. Some were lucky enough to get a seat. Others were willing to stand, for hours if need be.
     Sarah's story was their story too."

and something more: I was impressed by the detailed background research and careful thinking Susan E. Goodman shared in the Author's Note. As she explained, "Nonfiction authors feel a special responsibility when writing about other people... telling the truth means finding the facts and  the emotional truths. Sarah's story was hard because we know a lot about her trial but very little about her as a person...
     What is this story about? And why did I want to write it? Was it to show injustice of a child walking past five schools she couldn't enter...Or to show that fighting for a cause can be a victory even if you lose? Or that the push to integrate schools started long before the 1950s? For me, it includes all these ideas, and especially... If you feel something is wrong, speak up. And keep trying. Change happens when people of all kinds find a way to come together."    

11.07.2016

Nice Work, Franklin!

Dial Books for Young Readers
(Penguin Random House)
(published 1.5.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Suzanne Tripp Jurmain
      and Illustrator: Larry Day

C haracter: Franklin Roosevelt

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT wanted to be like his cousin PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT
     He wore eyeglasses like Teddy's. He spoke like Teddy. He even held the same public offices. But then one day everything changed. He developed polio and could no longer walk. But Franklin Roosevelt was determined not to give up. He ran for governor and won. But, about that time, a different kind of sickness spread across the nation. Businesses stopped. Banks closed. Millions lost their jobs. It was the Great Depression.  
      Franklin believed he could make the country well again, so he successfully ran for president. Then, with more hard work and great determination, President Franklin Roosevelt found new ways to help America heal." 
    
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "Now, no disabled person had ever tried to become a governor, a president, or even a mayor before, so, of course, some people objected. They said that a handicapped person like Franklin was not strong enough to carry out the business of government. But Franklin's friends just answered, PHOOEY! A governor's business 'is brain work,' they said. 'The governor of New York State does not have to be an acrobat.' And that made sense. It made such good sense that New Yorkers elected Franklin D. Roosevelt."

and something more: The Author's Note explains that although "he never regained the use of his legs, Franklin Roosevelt supported research to fight polio. In the 1950s and 1960s such support led to the discovery of vaccines that could prevent the disease. Thanks to those scientific achievements, the illness that made Franklin Roosevelt our only disabled president is now almost a forgotten disease in many parts of the world." 
    The FDR Presidential Library and Museum website includes this quote by Franklin: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’…You must do the thing you think you cannot do” 

10.30.2016

The William Hoy Story

How a Deaf Baseball Player
Changed the Game

Albert Whitman & Company
(published 3.1.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Nancy Churnin
      and Illustrator: Jez Tuya

C haracter: William Hoy

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "William Hoy led the National League in stolen bases in his rookie year. He had a strong, sure arm and a knack for catching fly balls. He was also deaf.
     William Ellsworth Hoy loved baseball more than anything. When he was told he was too short for his school team, he wouldn't let that stop him - he practiced and became good enough to play in the major leagues! Being deaf in the major leagues wasn't easy, since few people used sign language in the 1880s. William had a hard time reading lips on the field and some layers tried to trick him. But he wouldn't let that stop him either. William taught the umpires hand signals so he could see the calls, and then he really started to score!"
 
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "One day a pitcher played the meanest trick of all. William let three pitches go by because he thought they were balls. He was too far to read the umpire's lips and didn't know they were actually strikes. He stood, gripping his bat, waiting for the next pitch. But the next pitch never came. William was confused. Suddenly the pitcher burst out laughing. He pointed to the fans in the stands laughing too.  
     William's face grew hot. He walked off quickly. He wasn't going to cry. Not about baseball, he told himself.
     He jammed his hands in his pockets. Paper crunched against his fists. He pulled out a letter from his mother. He read again how much she missed him.
     William missed his family too. He remembered how his mom would raise her arms to applaud him.
     That's it! William pulled out his pad and drew pictures. He scribbled words next to the pictures. He wrote. He wrote. He WROTE! He ran to find the umpire.
     The umpire read William's notes.
     'Yes, that could work,' he said.
     The next time William was at bat, the umpire raised his right hand for a strike and his left for a ball.
     He used American Sign Language symbols for safe and out. This time William got on base. He stole bases. He scored!

and something more: I was interested to read in the Acknowledgments that the author explained that she and others are "campaigning to get William Hoy inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, where his story can continue to inspire anyone who has ever faced challenges in achieving his or her dreams."

10.10.2016

How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

A Story about the
Nation's First Woman Detective

Albert Whitman & Company

(published 3.1.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Elizabeth Steenwyk
      and Illustrator:  
Valentina Belloni

C haracter: Kate Warne

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "The president was in peril but Kate Warne knew what to do.
     One day in 1856, a young woman showed up at the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency asking for work. A female detective? No one had heard of such a thing! But Kate knew she could do the job as well - or better - than a man. Before long Kate was donning disguises, solving cases, and becoming one of Pinkerton's best detectives.
     Then came a secret that would affect the whole country: an undercover plot to assassinate President Lincoln on the way to his inauguration! The Pinkerton detectives had to stop it from happening, and Kate Warne set out on her most important mission. What would it take to save the day?"
    
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "Pinkerton hired her the next day and, just like that, Kate Warne became the first female detective in the nation.
     She disguised herself in fancy gowns and turned up at society parties. Many of the women there were married to successful men in business and politics, and they were eager to talk about their husbands' careers, especially to Kate, who they thought was one of them. Sometimes she dressed as a fortune-teller or wore other disguises to parties. She collected useful information this way."

and something more: I was fascinated to learn about Kate Warne's direct involvement in preventing the Baltimore assassination plot. The Note at the back of the book explains that at "a time when women had few rights and received little credit for their work, Kate pushed boundaries and defied expectations.
     The Pinkerton Detective Agency became the Union Intelligence Service during the Civil War, and its role in protecting President Lincoln made it the precursor to the U.S. Secret Service of today.  After the Civil War ended, Kate continued to work for Pinkerton until her death in 1868, when she was just thirty-eight years old, presumably of pneumonia.

9.18.2016

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble

Disney Hyperion
(published 2.23.2016)
40 pages 


A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

 A uthor: Doreen Rappaport

and Illustrator: Matt Faulkner

C haracter: Elizabeth Cady Stanton
                    and other American women
                    who fought for women's rights

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "She couldn't go to college
     She couldn't become a politician.
     She couldn't even vote.
     But Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn't let that stop her.
     She called on women across the nation to stand together and demand to be treated as equal to men - and that included the right to vote. It took nearly seventy-five years and generations of women fighting for their rights through words, through action and through pure determination ... for things to slowly begin to change
     With the help of these trailblazers' own words, Doreen Rappaport's engaging text, brought to life by Matt Faulkner's vibrant illustrations, shows readers just how far this revolution has come, and inspires them to keep it going!"
    
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "On January 10, 1917, the suffragists started picketing in front of the White House. In rain. In snow. In blistering heat, they stood silently with their signs.
     Angry mobs attacked them. The police did nothing to protect them, nor did they arrest any of their attackers. In the next eleven months, more than two hundred women were arrested for picketing. Almost one hundred women served time in prison. Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months and thrown into solitary confinement for two weeks with nothing to eat but bread and water. Lucy Burns and forty other women were beaten.
     Other suffragists took their places in front of the White House.
     Newspapers wrote about the brutal treatment of the women. Support for their cause grew. A judge finally ruled that the arrests were unconstitutional and ordered the women freed.
     A year after the women started picketing, President Wilson declared his support for an amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.
     On August 26, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote, became law."

and something more: The Author's Note reminds us "what seems hard to believe today, with girls and young women asserting leadership in so many different fields, that there was a time when women had no real legal rights... In 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed that women have the right to vote- along with many other rights - most people considered her ideas preposterous and controversial. Women who agreed with her were mocked and slandered... They were not just fighting for their own rights; they were fighting to change history for all people. The decision to 'include' all Americans as real citizens is still unfolding in this country Remember thee women when you need courage!"
    I thought the choice of narrative of this book to include all the women, and supportive men, was a powerful way to tell the story of the suffragists. And Matt Faulkner's evocative illustrations truly bring the sacrifice, determination and courage of these women to life.

9.05.2016

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

Marie Tharp Maps
the Ocean Floor

A Paula Wiseman Book
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
(published 1.15.2016) 40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Robert Burleigh
      and Illustrator: Raul Colon

C haracter: Marie Tharp

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Marie Tharp always loved maps. Traveling with her father to make surveys, she felt like maps talked to her. Then in college, a teacher pointed out that though the oceans cover more than half the earth's surface, scientists knew very little about the bottom of the seas. She wondered, how deep are the oceans? Is the seafloor flat or are there mountains on the ocean floor?
     In the 1940s Marie entered a world where it was not easy to be a woman and a scientist. And having a woman on a ship was thought to be bad luck. Still she persevered. Today Marie Tharp is considered one of the twentieth century's most important scientists, though she is little known.
     Award-winning author Robert Burleigh tells the story of Marie Tharp's imagination and determination. Luminously illustrated by Raul Colon, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea is a book that will inspire readers to follow their dreams."
    
T antalizing taste: 
     
    "People had long attempted to measure the depth of the oceans. Sailors once lowered weighted ropes to make such measurements. More recently, scientists had begun using machines that sent sound waves from a ship to the seafloor and back again ... These measurements are called 'soundings'...
     You have to think big, I told myself. I hauled a large table into my workroom and covered it with a huge sheet of paper. To me it was a blank canvas filled with possibilities. I couldn't wait to get started.
     ...It was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle. I felt like a detective solving a great mystery.
     I was a scientist at last ...
     I was a kind of artist, too... I couldn't see it with my eyes, yet a 'portrait' of the ocean floor was coming into view."

and something more: The back matter of Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea explains that Marie Tharp "was a key figure in helping to map and understand the seafloors around the world. Her work was also valuable in proving the theory of continental drift: that all the continents on earth move very slowly, toward or away from one another, over time... It took years for Marie's work and achievement to receive full recognition... Marie Tharp died in 2006. Among the many tributes that she received, one scientist put it very simply, 'Marie didn't just make maps. She understood how the Earth works.'"