Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wordless Books

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in wordless books. I like them because they allow a child to “read” the book; a child who may not be able to read at all. It helps children “tell” a story using the narrative skills, an early literacy skill. The child uses the picture clues to tell the story they want. The story can change every time it is told, the vocabulary can increase by who tells the story, and the book has a timeless appeal that evolves with deepening comprehension of life situations. Lastly, for the child working on writing skills, it helps to have the pictures as a prompt for an essay.

Suzy Lee has taken three simple elements to create a visual tour de force with Wave. We have a sunny day, a curious little girl, and a playful wave. The book is black and white (and shades of gray) with blue. The color blue is, of course, the wave, the water, and the action. There is one other piece of action and that is the “gutter” of the book. Oh, to have a child on my lap talking about this book! Check it out. If you spend any time at the seashore, you must purchase it! ~Joyce Laiosa

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Gates

Have you ever tried to explain a piece of art to someone? It depends upon the work, itself, what you would say, or how you might explain it. I know a little about art, but not enough to explain one of the most beautiful works of art I ever saw. It was called The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and it was displayed for 16 days in February 2005.

A new book by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan does a wonderful job of shedding light on the work of Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude. We learn of their European background and how World War II shaped their young lives; his in Bulgaria, hers in Paris. The art developed over time from wrapping up small objects all the way to encasing islands in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

Every project begins with drawings by Christo. The Gates began in 1979, but New York City had to approve the project because it was going to be outdoors in Central Park. It took 26 years for the project to be approved and it transformed Central Park. I remember taking the train to NYC to see it. My husband and I walked up to the park from Grand Central Station. Crowds filled the sidewalks. Before we knew it, we were swept up into the park with the crowd, our eyes drawn to the bright orange (salmon) color and flapping fabric over our head. We were part of the art experience as we walked through the park, around the lake, and over the rocks.

This experience is vividly remembered because of the book Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond. The photographs are stunning and reminds me of the wonderful day when I saw The Gates. What is art? I couldn’t explain it, but this book will help young people understand this beautiful piece of art! ~Joyce Laiosa

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sibert Medal Winner

Do you love baseball? Spring training is about to begin in warmer climates than here in the northeast. But if you are thinking green grass, breezes blowing the sweat off a brow, and the crack of a bat, have I got a book for you!

This year’s best work of nonfiction (which was awarded the Sibert Medal) is We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson. Nelson’s artistry has been recognized with his past Caldecott honor awards and Coretta Scott King Illustrator awards. This is the first time he has been honored for both words and pictures. First and foremost, the illustrations are rich, beautiful oil paintings. The colors resonate right off the page while you dream of sitting on the grass yourself. There is a double spread of a night game that takes you back to a simpler time. The night sky has a few stars, the lights barely shine on the outfield, yet you can’t take your eyes off the page. You are there, in that game, trying to follow the pitch that has just been thrown. In other paintings you notice that the players stand tall with absolute dignity. These men were left out of major league baseball, yet the endured hardships are history.

Each chapter is an inning, and each starts off with a quote. Nelson writes the book from the point of view of an “everyman” player. The title of the book is from a quote by the founder of the Negro National League, Rube Foster. “We are the ship; all else the sea.” The book is well researched with a bibliography, endnotes, and an index. All baseball lovers will want to read this, but for the youngest T-ball players, please read it to them! ~Joyce Laiosa