Day: January 10, 2017

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (InfoSoup)

The son of Polish immigrants, Ezra Jack Keats grew up in poverty in Brooklyn. Early in his life, Ezra followed his dream of being an artist. As an 8 year old, he earned money painting store signs. His father worried about this dream, but also helped by bringing home partially used paint from the artists at the cafe he worked at. Ezra was encouraged at school by teachers and at the library by librarians. Just as Ezra was about to leave for art school, his father died. He thought his artist dream was gone, but then during the Great Depression the New Deal emerged with The Art School League. It was then that he discovered what would be the beginning of The Snowy Day, but World War II would intervene before that dream could come true.

Pinkney’s poem sings on the page, telling the story of how an image can create real magic, just like the snow that inspired it too. She writes with real passion about poverty, the transformation that snow brings to poor neighborhoods, the delight of creation, the wonder of art and the long path it takes to bring a story to life sometimes. Pinkney’s words are magic, dashing and reacting along with the reader, swirling like snowflakes against your cheeks.

The illustrations by Fancher and Johnson are wonderful. Done in collage and paint, they capture Brooklyn as a clear setting and the hardship of Keats life enlivened by art. They then go on to inspire new thoughts of snowflakes and snow as they pay homage to The Snowy Day.

Perfect for fans of The Snowy Day, this picture book speaks to the power of art in one’s life and the way that one man’s dreams have inspired generations to dream too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young

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The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young (InfoSoup)

On Hunger Mountain, there lived a great lord who was wealthy and had anything he ever dreamed of. He lived in the tallest pagoda, had his rice washed in the stream, ate only the first half of his food, and wore the most beautiful fabrics. Then drought came to his land, yet the lord did not stop his consumption. A second year of drought and famine came and the others left his land. The lord finally realized he would starve alone in his pagoda so he left the mountain and tried to find food. When he met two beggars, they told him of a generous monk who would give others food. The monk gave the lord food and the cat realized that this was lovely grain and some of the best he had ever eaten. He asked the monk where he had gotten the rice and was told that it was washed down the river from Hunger Mountain where a wealthy lord had wasted it.

Young writes this story with real precision. He keeps his prose short and child-friendly with a tone of a storyteller who offers just enough detail yet keeps the pace brisk. Young allows the story itself to stand, not adding judgment in the text about what should be learned from it.

The illustrations are the opposite of the pared down text with a rich opulence built from layered collage. Some of the collage is patterned paper while others are photographs of fur, water or mountains. They have a serious energy to them, filled with motion and expression.

A vibrant picture book that looks at waste, consumption and humility. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.