John Newbery and
the Boisterous
Birth of Children's Books

Chronicle Books
(pub. 4.4.2017)
44 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Michelle Markel
      and illustrator: 
      Nancy Carpenter

C haracter:John Newbery

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Welcome! This book's for you. Every page, every picture, and every word was designed for your pleasure.
       Lucky, lucky reader.
       Be glad it's not 1726.
       Back then, children had to read preachy poems and fables, religious texts that made them fear that death was near, and manuals that told them where to stand, how to sit, not to laugh, and scores of other rules.
      Because the future champion of children's books was just a lad."

T antalizing taste: 
     "His name was John Newbery. The boy lived on a farm but fancied reading more that forking hay, so upon coming of age, he set off to work for a printer.
      John got a kick out of type sticks and type stands and chases and quoins.  He came to love galleys and presses and the smell of fresh ink.
     As soon as he was able, John became a publisher himself...
     John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible. There'd be letters from Jack the Giant Killer.
     There'd be pictures of pitch and hussel, hoop and hide, blindman's buff, and other children's games. Plus ABC's, proverbs, and other classic material, and for extra punch - a message too for mums and dads."

and something more: The back matter of BALDERDASH explains that "Newbery's books for children were approximately 4 inches by 3 inches ... which made them easily portable in pockets [and that size, of course, reminds me of Beatrix Potter's wonderful books]. He published more than one hundred books for children over his lifetime, and sold thousands of copies, establishing both the value and popularity of books written, illustrated, designed, and printed especially for the perspective and enthusiasms of children." Thank goodness for John Newbery's contribution to children's literature!


Fancy Party Gowns

The Story of Fashion Designer
Ann Cole Lowe

little bee books
(Bonner Publishing)

(pub. 1.17.2017)

40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Deborah Blumenthal
    and illustrator: Laura Freeman

C haracter: Ann Cole Lowe

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "When Ann Cole Lowe was a little girl, her momma and grandma taught her how to sew. When her momma died suddenly, Ann took over her job sewing party gowns. It wasn't easy, especially when she went to design school and had to work alone, segregated from the rest of the class. But the work she did set her spirit soaring, as evidenced in the clothes she made.
      Today she is best known for designing the dress that Jacqueline Bouvier wore at her fairy-tale wedding to future president John F. Kennedy.  Rarely credited during her lifetime, Ann Cole Lowe was called society's best-kept secret. This beautiful picture book shines the spotlight on a little-known visionary designer who persevered in times of hardship, always doing what she was passionate about: making elegant gowns for the women who loved to wear them."

T antalizing taste: 
     "But when Ann brought the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where the wedding reception [of JFK and Jackie] would take place, the butler who opened the door told her she'd have to use the back entrance that was meant for workers.
     Ann said that if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn't be wearing her dresses for the wedding.
     She entered through the front door."
and something more: I noticed that the "For Further Reading" section included many articles but few books that discuss Ann Cole Lowe. Of course, that's not surprising because even during her life, she was "society's best-kept secret" and didn't receive the credit she deserved. As Deborah Blumenthal states in her "Author's Note": "In her later years, Ann continued to design dresses for prominent women. She struggled financially though, and in 1960 was forced to close her salon in New York City... While researchers of Ann's life will find inconsistencies in her biography, what is never in dispute is the extent of her talent."


Sing, Don't Cry

Henry Holt and Company
(pub. 8.22.2017)
40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator: Angela Dominguez

C haracter: Apolinar Navarrete

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Once a year, Abuelo comes from Mexico to visit his family. He brings his guitar, his music - and his memories.
     In this story inspired by the life of Apolinar Navarrete Diaz - author Angela Dominguez's grandfather and a successful mariachi musician - Abuelo and his grandchildren sing through the bad times and the good. Lifting their voices and their spirits, they realize that true happiness comes from singing together.
T antalizing taste: 
     "'Sing, don't cry, even when you are alone in a big city.'
       'Because singing can attract someone to sing with you.'
       'When you are misunderstood, and when people are unkind,
 remember - sing, don't cry, even if it is only in your soul.'
       And always,' Abuelo told us, 'I will be singing with you.'"
and something more:  The Author's Note explains that "Sing, Don't Cry is inspired by the refrain in 'Cielito lindo,' a popular Mexican song."  Angela Dominguez writes that her grandfather "was born in 1916. As a young boy, Apolinar and his family emigrated from the small town of Amealco, Querataro, to Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution. When he lost his leg in a bus accident at the age of nine, he turned to music, learning the guitar...Through it all, he was an extremely optimistic man who loved to share music and life with his loved ones."  The endpapers of the book include some wonderful family photos.


Malala's Magic Pencil

Little Brown Books
for Young Readers


48 pages 

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Malala Yousafzai
      and illustrator: Kerascoet
          (pseudonym of husband-and-wife team,
            Sebastien Cosset and Marie Pommepuy)

C haracter: Malala Yousafzai

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "When Malala was a child in Pakistan, she wished for a magic pencil. She would use it to ... "draw a lock on her door to keep her brothers out ... stop time so she could sleep an extra hour every morning. ... erase the smell of the trash dump near her home." 
     But as Malala grew, her world changed and so did her wishes. Her right to attend school was threatened - just because she's a girl.  Instead of a magic pencil, Malala now picked up a real one. She wrote alone in her room about the challenges she faced, but people from all over read her words.
     And her wishes started to come true."
T antalizing taste:        
    "My father had always said, 'Malala will live free as a bird.'
     Now I wondered how free I'd truly be.
     That night I thought about families who didn't have enough food. And the girl who couldn't go to school. And even about how when I was older, I would be expected to cook and clean for my brothers, because where I came from, many girls weren't allowed to become what they dreamed of."

and something more: A new year and new beginnings -- so I wanted to begin with a story of hope. I was moved by the courageous story of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen: "Malala first came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban using the pen name Gul Makai. The Taliban had forbidden girls in her region from going to school Soon, she began to speak publicly about girls' education in her community.  In October 2012, Malala was targeted by the Taliban and attacked as she was returning home from school She miraculously survived.
     Malala and her family now live in Birmingham, England, and she travels the world speaking about the importance of education for all."



The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright's

Roaring Book Press


40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthors: Marc Harshman
                  & Anna Egan Smucker
      and art: LeUyen Pham

C haracter: Frank Lloyd Wright

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "In the wooded heart of Pennsylvania a house perches atop a waterfall. The water's tune echoes through its sunlight-dappled rooms and the facade blends effortlessly into the rock and forest behind it. This is Fallingwater, an architectural masterpiece born from the marriage of meticulous research and unbounded imagination, the legacy of the lauded American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
     This stunning picture book ... guides readers through Wright's process designing Fallingwater, from his initial inspiration to the home's breathtaking culmination. It is an exploration of the creative process; a celebration of potential and the vision required to unlock it. Graceful prose and rich, dynamic illustrations breathe life into the story of Wright and Fallingwater, a man and a home utterly unlike any other."

T antalizing taste:        
"Now concrete wings
and long, flat roofs
step up the hillside.

In the thundering water,
scaffolding spreads its spindly legs.

Like branches extending 
from a tree,
the house stretches out over the falls."

and something more: I was intrigued by the illustration process described in the Artist's Note written by LeUyen Pham: "I have long been an admirer of the architecture of Frank Lloyd wright, but my favorite among his buildings has always been Fallingwater. Of all those he designed, it is the one that best connects the structure to the environment.  
       While visiting, I spent hours going over each of the rooms of the house lingering on the terraces for as long as I was permitted, sketching on site as much as possible, and memorizing details of the exterior where cameras weren't allowed. I also spent days going over architectural drawings piecing together one level to another... 
       Wright was a controversial figure... [R]everence for his art, however, remains intact. It was his amazing sense of design, inspired greatly by his love of Japanese prints, that most influenced how I painted these images. His devotion to simple lines and clean treatment of materials - stone, glass, metal - has kept his buildings alive decades after their construction."


The World Is Not a Rectangle

A Portrait of
Architect Zaha Hadid

Beach Lane Books
(Simon and Schuster)

(pub. 8.22.2017)
56 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator: Jeanette Winter

C haracter: Zaha Hadid

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "A young girl in Iraq saw the wild beauty of the rivers and marshes and dunes and ancient ruins in her country and dreamed of designing wild and beautiful cities of her own.
     Her name was Zaha Hadid.
     When she grew up, she became one of the most irreverent, controversial, and celebrated architects in the world.
     This is her story."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Zaha's designs don't look like other designs.
      Her buildings swoosh and zoom and flow and fly.
     'The world is not a rectangle.'
     No one wants to build her unusual designs. They say they can't be built, but Zaha knows they can.
     So she enters competition after competition, hoping to win, hoping someone will be brave enough to build them.
     ...  Hadid means iron in Arabic, and Zaha is strong as iron.  She keeps on working - one plan after another.
    'I made a conscious decision not to stop.' 
     Zaha remembers the grasses in the marshes swaying and sees tall buildings dancing like grass...
     Zaha remembers the wind in the dunes and feels it blowing over and around and through her desert building"
and something more: Jeannette Winter's Author's Note explains her inspiration for creating this wonderful book, The World Is Not A Rectangle: "When I first saw photos of Zaha Hadid's architectural designs in 2010, the buildings seemed to fly. My spirit also took flight - to a place in my imagination that only landscape had taken me before. I had to find out more about her." And, of course, I wanted to learn more also after reading her book. This article from The Guardian shows and describes ten of her wildly creative designs that lifted Jeannette Winter's spirit.