Tag: stories

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

The Storyteller by Evan Turk (InfoSoup)

When the Kingdom of Morocco formed many years ago, it was built around fresh water sources and filled with storytellers. Then people lost their fear of the desert and the water fountains dried up and the storytellers left. A thirsty boy walked the city looking for water but found none. An old man called him closer and offered to tell him a story that would quench his thirst. At the end of his story, the little boy’s water cup was full. The story continued from one day to the next, each day resulting in water. Meanwhile, in the desert, a storm is forming created by a djinn looking to destroy Morocco. When the djinn arrives though, there is a way to battle it and bring water to the entire city. It just takes a young storyteller.

Turk beautifully weaves two stories together into one remarkable tale. The stories intertwine, showing the power of storytelling and its ability to refresh and quench thirsts. It is also about community and the vitality of shared stories and their power to change society. Beautifully, it is also about a boy learning a skill and a master storyteller showing his craft, plus it’s about a great story at its heart. There is attention to the flow of the tales here, how they work together, how repetition and rhythm are part of oral storytelling.

The illustrations are impressive, creating borders on the page that add richness. They also have a looseness to the images that is imaginative and allows the reader to fill in the blanks visually themselves. Even the text plays a visual role with different characters having differently colored fonts.

The power of story is brought to life in this rich picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C Stead

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (InfoSoup)

Stead captures a day in search of a story to write. He takes a walk with his dog named Wednesday since it’s a sunny day. They greet Frank, a turtle who lives near the bridge. They wave to Barbara a neighbor who owns the home where the author used to live and where he dropped blue paint in the shape of a horse. Ducks float by. Trains rush past. They walk through town and listen to the birds and watch the blue sky. Wednesday chases a squirrel back to Barbara’s house where they have coffee together. And soon a story has been found.

This is a treasure of a picture book. It offers a glimpse into the writing process, into the importance of getting outside and taking a walk. It shows how little things turn into stories and become big ideas. It also shows the author as a product of his personal landscape, whether that is filled with a story based firmly in reality like this one or one that is more fantastical or whimsical.

Stead’s illustrations are a rich mix of media. There are photographs of Wednesday combined with collage, painting and printed words. Some of the paintings have gorgeous textures that remind me of stencils or the roughness of stamping. The entire book sings with invention and inspiration.

A perfect leaping off point for young writers, this book shows that not only can any idea become a story but ideas can become great picture books too. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly (InfoSoup)

When Sol and her little sister Ming moved from the Philippines to the United States, they knew their lives were going to change. But they didn’t realize that they would be abandoned by their father and stuck living with Vea, their mean stepmother in a tiny apartment in Louisiana. Now five years later, Sol manages to escape her stepmother’s cruelty by escaping into stories, particularly when she is sent to the closet when she has done something wrong. She shares the stories with her little sister and Ming has now started to believe in their mythical Aunt Jove and expects her to arrive to rescue them. As Ming’s hope grows, Sol despairs of their lives ever improving at all, but friendship comes from unexpected places and may be the answer to their hopes and dreams.

Kelly, author of Blackbird Fly, has created another great novel for children. In this book, she beautifully captures the complexity of the lives of some children where their families have been turned upside down through death and abandonment and they are left with those who don’t love them at all. It is a book about hope as well, about the power of stories to create new realities and the radiance of hope even in the bleakest of times.

Particularly notable in this novel is Kelly’s willingness to tell a very sad story, one filled with loss and betrayal and still one that is very appropriate for children. Sol herself reflects on the sadness of her story and her new friend:

What gloomy tales we had, I thought. I wondered what we’d look like to someone passing by. Two twelve-year-old girls – one so white she looked like a ghost and the other so dark she looked like the fields – sitting on milk crates and telling sad, sad stories in the hot, hot sun.

These are stories of poverty, of spending time on the streets to get out of the misery of your home. The novel dazzles with its truth and honesty of children who shine despite the darkness in their lives.

A powerful novel of stories and hope and how they can be used to overcome the darkness that life contains. Appropriate for ages 10-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller (InfoSoup)

Snappsy discovers his day taken over by a narrator in this picture book. The book begins with the narrator explaining that Snappsy was feeling “draggy” and even his skin was “baggy.” Meanwhile, Snappsy himself actually feels hungry. The narrator keeps talking about Snappsy’s every move, sometimes just describing what is happening in each image and other times adding too much drama. When Snappsy reaches the grocery store, the narrator focuses on the letter P too much. Snappsy decides to throw a party so there is something to do, and the narrator continues to cause mayhem as the story progresses.

Falatko’s writing is very funny. Her timing is wonderful, Snappsy often reacting just the way that the reader would, calling the narrator out for doing a bad job at times and other times getting snarky when the narrator has miscalled what is about to happen. The influence of the narrator’s voice on a story is shown very clearly here and is a great way to talk about the tone of writing and how that can change an entire book to read one way or another. That said, this book can also just be read for the giggles which is the perfect reason to pick up any picture book.

Miller’s illustrations have the feel of a vintage picture book, just right for this subject matter. They add to the humor from the expressions on Snappsy’s face to the homey aspects to the house that Snappsy lives in.

A smart, silly and richly funny picture book that is sure to have people laughing when it’s shared aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram

Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram

Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (InfoSoup)

Released July 14, 2015.

One summer Rufus decides not to have his regular lemonade stand. Instead he will do a story stand! So he gets all set up wtih plenty of paper, pencils, pens and markers. When Millie and her little brother Walter stop at the stand, Rufus agrees to write them a story in exchange for a special shell from the beach. The story is about Walter’s favorite color. Sandy stops by with a box of kittens and even though they are free, Rufus writes a story in exchange for the black kitten, a story about cats. Rufus is reminded that his little sister’s birthday is tomorrow and he knows that a story will be the best present. Sara stops by and asks for a story about buttons, so Rufus agrees in exchange for whatever Sara thinks it should be worth. All of his customers pick up their stories at the same time and sit right down to read and enjoy them.

This smart blend of lemonade stand and creativity makes for a book premise that is very engaging and fun. Particularly pleasant is the lack of focus on money as payment and instead allowing a warm and friendly bartering system in exchange for Rufus’ stories. The values make sense, paid in kittens, shells and flowers. Also great is the way that Rufus’ stories are each designed specifically for that reader, with their favorite color or via the subject matter. The stories are engaging and fun, just brief enough to give a flavor and not slow the main storyline down.

Groenink’s illustrations are done in gouache, acrylics and pencils with Adobe Photoshop. They are warm and bright, showing a friendly neighborhood with plenty of ethnic diversity in Rufus’ customers. They have a playful feel with the trees around Rufus’ stand done in a whimsical way and various woods animals peeking at what is going on. The illustrations in Rufus’ stories are drawn with fine details and show the coloring lines. They have the same quality and feel of the other pictures but also have a distinct style of their own.

A celebration of creativity and writing, this book may inspire children to find their own variations on lemonade stands or even try their hand at writing and illustrating their own stories. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

Review: By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman

by mouse and frog

By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman

Released April 14, 2015

Mouse wakes up early to start work on the new story she wants to write. It is a quiet story about a mouse who is setting the table. But before she can get any farther in her story, exuberant Frog hops in and starts adding new elements to the story, including cake, a king, and lots of ice cream. Meanwhile Mouse is trying to mop up all of the mess of the spilled tea, melting ice cream, while Frog gets completely out of control and takes over entirely. Finally Mouse has had enough and yells that Frog is not listening at all! They erase the entire mess of Frog’s story and start again with just Mouse’s ideas of morning tea. Frog is forlorn, unable to help until Mouse realizes that there is room in the story for her quiet ideas and Frog’s wild ones.

Freedman shows without any didactic tone that collaboration on stories and art is possible, as long as everyone listens, communicates and compromises. In fact, the end result is a lot more lovely! Showing that wild ideas are not the best way to come up with a story, but that also quiet thoughts have value, is a wonderful show of support for quieter thinkers. At the same time, that wild moment of Frog’s makes the entire book work, showing how out of control and wonderful some ideas can be. It’s a balanced look at creativity and collaboration that is welcoming and inclusive.

As always Freedman’s art is exceptional. Once again she does washes of watercolor that are gorgeously messy and free. The spilled tea and other elements of Frog’s story embrace all of that. Mouse’s story is shown in pencil drawings that are childlike and rough while also being very neat and structured. They show each characters personality clearly. At the end, it is a lovely marriage of the two styles, filled with bright colors and yet neat as a pin.

Creative and great fun to share aloud, this picture book demonstrates how teamwork and collaboration should work. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Review: Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay

any questions

Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay

Where do stories come from?  How are books made?  These questions that authors often get from children are the subject of this picture book from an author who has written and illustrated many picture books.  Together the author and a group of children asking delighted questions create a story right in front of the reader.  They take inspiration from the kind of paper the story is written on, the colors of the page.  They talk about how ideas happen, and how sometimes they are great ideas but don’t become a book or that not all ideas fit into a single story.  Ideas sometimes don’t appear and you have to wait for them, doodling and dreaming of other things until they arrive.  And then something happens, and it starts to become a story!  The children in the book get involved and the story takes a surprising turn.  Luckily story telling is flexible and able to deal with wild purple monsters who come out of the woods.  This is a great look at the creative process and how books are made, written at a level that preschool children will enjoy and understand.

Gay is so open and inviting in this picture book.  She is refreshingly candid about the creative process and all of the bumps and twists along the way.  The invitation to the reader along with the child characters in the book to be part of creating a story is warm and friendly.  All ideas are welcome, some work and other don’t, and that is all embraced as part of creativity. 

Gay’s illustrations continue the cheerfulness of the text.  They combine writing in cursive with story panels and speech bubbles with characters in the book.  It’s all a wonderful mix of styles that gets your creativity flowing.

Expect children to want to write their own stories complete with illustrations after reading this!  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.