Day: November 1, 2016

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk

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Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo (InfoSoup)

At two different schools, two boys are assigned to be penpals with one another. Their letters have to be written in rhyme. The boys start by talking about the assignment and school and then quickly move on to what they enjoy doing and their families. What the boys don’t know though is that George is a human and Blaise is a dragon. As each boy misinterprets the clues that the other is giving them about how different they are, a picnic approaches where the penpals are going to meet. What happens when the class of humans and the class of dragons finally meet one another? Success!

Funk cleverly uses fantasy to speak about how we see differences between one another. His use of dragons and the intelligent way that he hides the truth while all the while revealing it too makes for a fun book to share. This would be a great book to offer to children who are starting their own penpal assignments and also offers an opportunity for any child to see how things can be misunderstood even when they are stated clearly. It also speaks to our ability to think that people are just like us and the ability to see beyond physical differences and to the person (or dragon) inside.

The illustrations are playful and bright. They capture the ways that the two boys are meaning their messages. So one image is the way that the writer intended the message to be read and the other is thought bubbles for how the message is being interpreted by the reader. There is plenty of action and drama imagined about simple messages and then in reverse there are dramatic scenes that are completely misunderstood and downplayed.

Funny and clever, this picture book demonstrates that humans can see beyond green scales to the pal underneath. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes (InfoSoup)

Days are busy, filled with activity. One child whose parent is heading off to pilot a plane in the early morning put her wishes into words in the form on an invocation. She asks for snow to come, to change the face of the city and the pace of their life. She wishes for a slowness and as the book continues readers will see the snow start to fall, the parent leave for the airport, then the airport start to fill with waiting passengers who are not going anywhere. Then the parent catches a snowplow ride back home where the family spends a day together in the snow sledding.

Sidman’s invocation is simple and heartfelt. She voices it with the clarity of a ringing bell and real honesty. She plays her quiet voice against the hustle and busyness of an urban setting, allowing the snow and the wonder of it to slow the entire book down to the pace of the invocation itself. It’s a beautiful effect, strengthened by the illustrations and the beauty of the words themselves.

I was thrilled to see another pairing of Sidman and Krommes. Krommes creates scratchboard illustrations that have the organic feel of block prints. They are rich with details and fill the pages with subtle colors and dancing snow. The art has an inherent warmth to it, inviting snuggling under covers together.

Another great achievement for this author and illustrator pair, this is a great winter story that focuses on family and time spent together. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.