The colors in the letters of the title move from brown to green, and it’s not too much of a surprise that the book’s general colors follow likewise. Like the little boy, dog, and turtle at the center of the book, readers have to wait through a lot of brown ground to see more colors. But Erin Stead’s woodblock and pencil illustrations always convey warmth, and the robin’s egg blue back pages are sometimes seen in the varied sky. The boy who begins bundled up in hat, muffler, and mittens ends up barefoot and swinging from a tire over grass and the beginnings of flowers and vegetables he planted, with a delight we feel he well deserves. A perfect book for those of us who wait and watch for winter’s end!
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Want more recommendations from The Carle Bookshop? Click here to read for Top of the Shelf book reviews.
We’re close to spring. I can feel it. This may very well be the most mild winter I’ve ever experienced. It’s not even March and already I can see little bits of green poking up in my flower gardens as my daffodils and tulips emerge. This has put me in a mood for the color green! So, for this week’s puzzler, I’ve collected ten green covers of popular picture books. Can you name each book from the small glimpse of its cover? Put your guesses in the comments below and I’ll be back at the end of the week with the answers. Think spring!
We were so lucky to have Kadir Nelson join us at The Carle for the opening reception of our newest exhibition, We Are The Ship, this weekend. On Saturdday night, Nelson led a wonderfully moving presentation about his seven year journey toward publishing this amazing book. He showed us images of his first three paintings of the American Negro League players, done while still a student at the Pratt Institute, which were the initial inspiration for creating the book. It was so wonderful to see these early illustrations, quite different from the final illustrations in the book, where the figures were more like exaggerated caricatures. Players with extremely long arms, huge hands and windmill-like arms reveal Kadir Nelson’s awe of these players’ immense superhuman-like baseball skills.
After he got a contract with his editor, Andrea Pinkney, to not only illustrated bu also write the book, Nelson immersed himself in years of extensive research. It was amazing to hear him talk about old black-and-white baseball photographs and see through his, an artist’s, eyes. He put them up on the projected screen and pointed out the precise body language of the players, the advertisements on the walls in the background. Artful diagonals and unusual horizons were captured at these unique angles because, at this time, photographs were allowed on the ballfield with the players. “That’s what I wanted my book to be,” Nelson said.
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson Tour Management by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri
Inspired by these photographs and using his own unique talents, Nelson created paintings that look like exaggerated color versions of these old photographs. Readers feel like they are looking up in awe at these giants of ballplayers in stunning still portraits, and feel like they are right on the field in breathtaking action shots. This awe of the ballplayers is echoed in Nelson’s voice as he gushes about meeting actual Negro League players Buck O’Neil and Walt McCoy. After doing so much research through books, photographs and newspapers, for Nelson, meeting these historical heroes was “like meeting Abraham Lincoln after writing a book report on him.” He shared photographs of them together and sound recordings of their conversations with the audience. Through these personal interactions, Nelson was finally able to tackle writing his first book text. He admits that the prospect of writing the book, as well as illustrating it, left him “pleased but also petrified” because he didn’t feel like “a writer.” Inspired by a quote from Nikki Giovanni, “There is no such thing as writer’s block, there’s just lack of information,” Nelson relied on his dedicated research and pure love of history and the game to help bring the text of the book together.Through the conversations with O’Neil and McCoy, he realized that he had to capture their voice and tell the story as if these players collectively are telling their story and speaking together to the reader.
He went on to talk about his more recent venture in writing and illustrating with his award-winning 2011 book, Heart and Soul. He explained that he wanted to tell the American story from the African American perspective, and like writing We Are The Ship with players like Buck O’Neil in mind, he wrote Heart and Soul through the voice of a 102-year-old narrator, whose life and family’s lives paralleled the story of America. In this way, Nelson explains, all of our lives and our family’s lives are the American story and America’s history is the story of how they all intertwine. He spoke about his passion for taking stories that are not necessarily positive and turning them into something beautiful and palatable. The ability to create beauty and share the light inside of us is, Nelson says, human kind’s greatest gift.
Photo by Kristin Angel
Kadir Nelson, Jerry Pinkney, and Tony DiTerlizzi. Photo by Kristin Angel.
Following Saturday’s presentation, Nelson gave a wonderful personal tour of his gallery, followed by a book signing.
Photo by Kristin Angel.
Photo by Kristin Angel
For more about Kadir Nelson’s visit, including a wonderful tour and presentation he gave on Friday to students from the Maurice Donahue Elementary School in Holyoke as part of NEA grant programming, visit MassLive’s website.
There’s a wonderful video of the visit as well. If you missed the chance to meet Kadir Nelson, he’ll be back with us on Sunday, April 1st for an event with Sharon Robinson, daughter of ballplayer great Jackie Robinson, and Simon Scott. Hope to see you there!
This year I was a proud judge for the CYBILS (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) for the category of Fiction Picture Books. We had to decide which picture book of the final seven was the most distinguished and outstanding. It was such a hard decision because we had such wonderful and different books to discuss. You can see all the finalists from the picture book category here.
And the winner is…
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)
Here’s what I wrote about why we picked this book as the winner:
“Me…Jane is a touching glimpse into the life of a young Jane Goodall as a curious girl with a love of nature, and books, and a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. A unique combination of dreamy watercolor vignettes and nature-inspired vintage engravings complement a simple and evocative text. Every element of the book’s design, from its album-like cover and heavy yellowed pages to the inclusion of photographs and Goodall’s own childhood drawings, helps create a picture book that feels like a relative’s cherished scrapbook. Readers of all ages will take inspiration from a young girl who so fully follows her dreams.”
I’m really happy with this choice and want to thank my amazing fellow judges and book bloggers for making this such a great experience! For a complete list of winners in all the categories click here.
Today, February 22nd, is George Washington’s birthday and what better way to celebrate our forefather who could not tell a lie, than with a “mostly true” and yet entirely amusing picture book. Margaret McNamara’s George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) is a fresh and funny relief from stale biographies about historical figures that children are forced to read for school. Instead, McNamara, with help from witty illustrator Barry Blitt, best known for his satirical New Yorker covers, offer a story about a 7-year-old boy who thinks his family has forgotten his birthday. A story many young and birthday conscious readers can relate and aspire to, because this particular 7-year-old happens to grow up to be the first president of United States. And, humorously, no one will forget his birthday now that it’s a national holiday.
McNamara and Blitt cleverly play with fact and fiction throughout the book. McNamara weaves in familiar facts and legends about George Washingon, such as the story of the cherry tree and throwing a stone all the way across the Rappahannock river. Little asides on each page act as disclaimers, telling readers what is fact and what is myth, offering insight and often more detail about George Washington’s bright future. Blitt’s illustrations play off of these facts and myths. Where a factoid states that George Washington never wore a wig, he puts the 7-year-old in a white wig which comically shifts and falls on in various states of the boy’s activities.
The text and illustrations are packed with little nuances of humor for the reader to pick up on. Sometimes subtle, like when George mutters under his breath, calling his older half brother “a tyrant” to other times being a bit more blatantly funny, such as the headlines in the newspaper that George’s father reads: “Cherry Tree Mystery Solved” and “Don’t Axe Don’t Tell Repealed.” Perhaps my favorite illustration is the hilarious one on the back cover of an older and more familiar looking George Washington wearing a party hat, blowing a party horn. Party on, George.
Adults and children alike will appreciate the different levels of humor in this book, while learning facts and debunking popular myths. If you’re interested in hearing illustrator Barry Blitt talk a bit about the book, he was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air recently. You can listen online here.
Our gratitude to author Margaret McNamara who is donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to The Carle Museum. A reason to party, indeed. Pick up your copy online here.
We are so excited to be hosting an exhibition of Kadir Nelson’s illustrations from the award-winning book, We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. The exhibition opened last week and we’re hosting special events this weekend with Kadir Nelson to celebrate. We begin the festivities with a Members’ reception for the exhibition, Saturday, February 18th and then welcome Kadir Nelson back to The Carle on Sunday, February 19th to give a personal gallery tour at 1:00 pm, followed by a book signing.
Even if you can’t make it to The Carle this weekend, you should definitely take this opportunity to reserve yourself an autographed copy of one of his books! Click here to pre-order by Saturday, February 18th.
We Are The Ship (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, 2008) is a true masterpiece. It chronicles the history of the Negro League Baseball from its creation by Rube Foster to finally the breaking of the long-standing color barrier in major league baseball by Jackie Robinson. The amazing oil paintings in the book feature action shots, team snapshots and individual portraits of players in the league, some well-known like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, while including many others not found in many history books.
Kadir Nelson put so much heart into the creation of this book. Inspired in part by a viewing of Ken Burns’s documentary, Baseball, Nelson set out to learn more about the history of baseball and its Negro Leagues. He spent 7 years researching every detail, from uniform colors and jersey numbers to players and ball fields of the time period. After reading interviews and listening to former players speak, Nelson realized this was a story that needed to be told in the voice of the player. He wrote the text of the book to be as if the player is directly speaking to the reader, creating a sense of warmth and closeness.
The oversized format of the book allows his stunning illustrations to shine, but it really could not fully prepare me for the experience of seeing the original paintings in real life. I was stunned when I stepped into the exhibition at The Carle for the first time and saw the size of the paintings (one measuring almost 6′ in length!), the vividness of the colors and realistic three-dimensional style of the faces. Up close you can see the clever plays with light and shadow, foreground and background, all the while paying homage to these trailblazing figures. It’s truly an emotional experience and one not to be missed.
Here is a wonderful video of Kadir Nelson talking about the creation of We Are The Ship, which in 209 won both a Coretta Scott King Award and Coretta Scott King Honor, as well as the Robert F. Siebert Medal:
For more information about the exhibit, here’s a wonderful article that ran today in the Amherst Bulletin. For baseball fans and fans of Kadir Nelson, we also have on exhibit a second gallery of Kadir Nelson artwork from his book about Jackie Robinson, written by Jackie’s daughter, Sharon Robinson, titled Testing the Ice. There’s a lot of great programming in store for this duration of these exhibits, including a second visit from Kadir Nelson, this time joined by Sharon Robinson and Scott Simon on April 1st, and a fun-filled baseball day this summer. We hope you can make it here the see the show!
For Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered together a few of our favorite picture books about love. Here’s a peek at our in-store display:
I love that picture books make such a great gift to any age loved one because they often capture just the right thing I want to say about love in just a few pages!
You can browse through our selection online as well.
My favorite picture books picks this year for Valentine’s Day are Henry in Love by Peter McCarty (Balzer & Bray,2010), And I Love You by Ruth Kraus and Steven Kellogg (Scholastic Press, 2010) and Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) by Maira Kalman (Viking, 1991).
It’s the story of a straight line who falls in love with a frivolous dot and manages to persuade her, by his cleverness and skill at manipulating geometry, to fall for him as well. Juster takes the age-old trope of boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy gets girl in the end, and turns it into a delightful pun-filled exploration of the joy of mathematics, in a way that only he could. It was made into a short film which won an Academy Award in 1965. You can watch it below:
Happy Valentine’s Day! What are your favorite picture books about love?
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and to celebrate, this week’s puzzler is all about LOVE. Can you name each of these ten picture books by the heart-shaped snapshot of its cover? Here’s a hint: They all have LOVE in the title!
I just had to share with you this wonderful matching game made by one of our customers. Marabeth Nally, a teacher at the RMSC Preschool in Rochester, New York purchased some of the Very Hungry Caterpillar Color Dot fabric and Very Hungry Caterpillar Sticker Set. I was so delighted when she recently stopped by to show what her classroom had made with these and a few other easy, recycled materials.
This adorable pouch is filled with an assortment of multicolor lids. The children and their families collected them from milk and juice and other beverage bottles and then recycled them into a fun game. The children then stuck matching sets of stickers onto the bottle lids to create a memory game.
To play the game, place all the lips face down and turn over two at a time. Try to remember where each image was to create matching pairs. Marabeth even made an adorable tag for the game that says “Reduce, Reuse, Rejoice!” Isn’t that a wonderful idea? Thanks for sharing, Marabeth!
Have you brought Eric Carle’s books into your classroom in a creative way? Tell us about it!
You may remember the our bestselling Eric Carle DVD was recently remade into a gorgeous and inspirational short film. Here’s the link to July’s post about it.
We’re so happy to share the news that ALA has named it a 2012 Notable Children’s Video! The videos that win this recognition are “videos for children 14 years of age and younger that exhibit especially commendable quality, show respect for children’s intelligence and imagination and reflect and encourage the interests of children in exemplary ways.”
We couldn’t agree more. Thanks, ALA! If you haven’t had the chance to see the video yet, here’s a sneak peek. You can purchase copies on our website here or check it out of your local library.