Day: September 11, 2014

Review: Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston

winter is coming

Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

A stunningly gorgeous picture book about the changing seasons, this is a perfect way to welcome winter even when you don’t want it to arrive.  The book begins on a cold day in September with a girl out in nature watching the animals.  She has along her drawing pad and climbs into a tree house to see even better.  From that platform, she sees a red fox stealing the last wrinkled fall apple from a low branch.  A mother bear and her cub are also in the woods searching for food.  As fall progresses, she sees different animals: a family of skunks, rabbits, woodpeckers, a lynx, chipmunks, deer and geese.  All are preparing for the approaching winter in their own way.  As winter gets closer, the animals stop appearing until the day the snow arrives when the red fox is out to see it too.

Johnston has created a book that truly shows children what it is like to be surrounded by the wonder of nature during one changing season.  Her poetry sparks on the page, showing not only the different animals but also explaining what is beautiful and special about each one.  Even more mundane animals like the chipmunks get this honor.  Young readers will be inspired to get outside and sit still and just watch.

The art from LaMarche is stunning.  He takes advantage of the length of the pages and creates wide landscapes that embrace the changing colors of the seasons.  They turn from the bright yellows of early fall to the deeper reds and browns and then to the chill grays of winter.  He uses light beautifully throughout and various perspectives that all center around one tree and one girl.  It is extraordinary.

Perfect pick for just this time of year, get your hands on this beautiful picture book and then be ready for adventures outside, hopefully with your own pen and paper along.  Appropriate for ages 4-8. 

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: Father’s Chinese Opera by Rich Lo

fathers chinese opera

Father’s Chinese Opera by Rich Lo

A first person account of a little boy who spent a summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera in Hong Kong.  He watched the actors, the orchestra, and all of the vibrant action of the acrobats.  The boy approached the top acrobatic actor and asked if he would train him.  He promised to work hard to learn all of the complicated movements.  After practicing for awhile, the boy announced that he was ready for the stage now, but his trainer laughed at him.  The boy was heartbroken until his father explained that it had taken him many steps of training to earn the right to lead the opera.  So the boy began again, this time starting in the lowly role of flag boy onstage but also adding his own movements too.

Lo reveals in his Author’s Note that he grew up with his father taking him to the theater for opera rehearsals and performances.  This book captures the dreams of a young boy and his wish to not only be like his father but also to be on stage and perform.  The focus on hard work and determination is clear in this picture book and is presented in an approachable way for young readers. 

The illustrations by Lo are bright and filled with movement.  He captures the acrobats in mid-flip on the page.  The costumes shine on the page, the rainbow of colors rich against the white background.  He uses flowing lines to crate motion and watercolors that are bright and flow together.

An impressive look behind the scenes at a Chinese opera and a lesson in hard work as well, this picture book will be enjoyed by teachers and children alike.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.