Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Picture Book Review: The Very Tiny Baby

As a mother with children who were born premature, The Very Tiny Baby by Sylvie Kantorovitz (Charlesbridge, 2014) caught my attention. It's a topic I've often thought of exploring in a picture book and naturally I was curious to see how this author broached the subject. Brilliantly, in my opinion. Just the right amount of fact, honesty, and story woven together.

Jacob and his teddy bear Bob, Jacob's alter ego, are waiting the arrival of a new sibling. His mother and father and grandmother are excited about the baby but Jacob has mixed emotions. He's not sure he's happy about it. "Bob says the baby will steal my toys." When the baby arrives too soon (premature), everybody is concerned about the baby surviving. Will it live? Jacob doesn't understand if the baby is in the hospital under constant care by a doctor and team of nurses why aren't his mother and father home taking care of him instead of Grandma. At one point, we hear Jacob's darkest thoughts "I think we should give the baby away. I wish the baby would die."  

Through Jacob's good and bad thoughts, we understand his worries "I want to be the only one again" and watch his transformation as he understands the obstacles the tiny baby faces, learns to forgive his parents, and ultimately embraces the role of big brother.

I think this author's brave candid approach will allow for open discussions within families as they prepare for new siblings especially ones born premature. It reminds me of the honest conversations we had in our family with the birth of our premature children. The illustrations remind me of author/illustrator Lauren Child's Charlie & Lola series, full of expression and child-like. For ages 2 - 7.

Monday, March 17, 2014

ReaderKidZ Review - Grandfather Gandhi

There's been so many exciting things happening for me and my friends in 2014. Today, I'd like to share a special book with you and an incredible journey of inspiration, passion, and perseverance. The book I'm referring to is Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by my dear friend Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi, illustrated by Evan Turk (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Mar 2014).

I had the privilege of reviewing this book at ReaderKidZ this month and you can read the review and short interview with Bethany by clicking HERE. Additionally, Kirkus Reviews author Laura Jenkins also interviewed Arun, Bethany, and Evan and you can read their conversation HERE.

Arun is the 5th grandson of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and the book Grandfather Gandhi chronicles a special time when Arun visited his grandfather at the Sevagram Ashram and the life lessons he discovered that would lead him to choose lamp over lightening.

What I find especially rewarding about this book for children of all ages is its capacity to be a ripple in the pond affecting change around the world especially in how we deal with anger. It's also a true testament to the art form of the picture book. The collaboration between Bethany and Arun and their belief in each other to get the story right. It didn't matter how long the process took, they'd stay the course and see it to fruition. On dark days, when balled up paper and tears mixed, Bethany knew giving up wasn't an option. She knew not to force the story and like our friend and mentor New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith always says, "When all else fails, begin again."

Then enter Evan Turk, a young up-and-coming illustrator bursting with talent and creative ingenuity. His mixed media collages are nothing short of brilliant, the colors vibrant, the emotions evocative of prayer and peace then switching to anger and lightening. It's visually breathtaking and I foresee many awards in its future.

Over the years, Bethany and I have discussed working together but it wasn't until this book neared its debut before we figured out how the puzzle pieces were going to fit together for us to collaborate. As her booking agent of the Booking Biz, I'm thrilled to help bring this author and this important story into libraries, schools, book stores, literary festivals, and conferences. I'm also honored to be representing the award-winning author/illustrator Don Tate and award-winning author Dianne de Las Casas. I'm a staunch admirer of their work and their work ethic and how they live their life and spread joy.

With the first quarter of 2014 underway, I'm excited with this new business venture, the possibilities on the horizon with my own picture book projects, and continuing to be an advocate for children's literature.

Pick up a book and read to a child today, inspire a life-long reader!