About the Holiday
Picture Book Month is an international literacy inititive put together by a group of authors and illustrators to raise awareness of the importance of print picture books. Througout the world libraries, schools, booksellers, authors, illustrators, and those who love picture books celebrate the wonder of this art form enjoyed by children and adults. The complexity of picture books is astounding. They contain some of the most beautiful art and compelling stories being created today. To learn more about the importance of the picture book visit Picture Book Month: A Celebration! to find daily posts by authors, illustrators, and experts in the field as well as fun activities!
By Pamela Zagarenski
A little girl loves stories and the magical realms they can take her to. One day while waiting for school to be dismissed, she spies a book on a shelf. Her teacher allows her to take it home with her, and the little girl happily runs off with it when the clock strikes 3:00. On the way home, she doesn’t notice that all the letters are escaping from the book or that a wily fox is catching them in a net.
At home she secludes herself in her room, excited to read the mysterious book. She turns the pages, awed by the beautiful pictures. But by the time she has finished, she has tears in her eyes. “Where were the words? Where were the stories?” The girl flips through the book again, but this time she hears a small whisper: “Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed. You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories.”
The whisper seems so knowing that the girl does at it suggests. She turns to the first page where a blue bear followed by a beekeeper walks under a honeycomb sun toward a brown bear. The girl stares at the picture and thinks of a title: Blue Bear’s Visit. Her story begins: “Blue Bear arrived on the first day of spring. He promised…”
Warming to the idea of creating stories, the girl examines the second picture. She notices the same white rabbit that was in the first picture. In the foreground a “magnificent ox” is listening to a man whispering into its large, soft ear. The Secret, the little girl titles this story, which starts: “Mr. Ox, you must please promise not to tell anyone, but we need your help. Last week…”
With the third picture the words tumble out more easily, forming sentences that give life to the massive white elephant, regal lion, and that rabbit again who are traveling the sea in a long, open boat. The Quest, she calls it. In Tigers Prayer, preparations are being made: tea is brewing, a clown with a pointed hat plays his accordion, a windhorse jumps through hoops, and the rabbit rides a golden ring as a lion hears what Tiger has to say. A Birthday Party comes next, and it seems Pan has planned a very secret party. An owl perches in the crook of a tree asking for the password with a “Hoo, Who?” which is answered quickly because the vanilla cake with raspberry filling and vanilla cream frosting holding 6 candles must be delivered.
The Magical Cloak sees the little girl’s imagination truly take flight as she decides the man in the “elaborate coat” is a wizard or magician whose bubbles come to life once released from the blower. Enormous whales now fill the harbor. They are beautiful, but something must be done….Next, hurry to meet the owl! He is picking up passengers at midnight. But what does the golden key in his beak open? Only the story The Golden Key locked in the little girl’s mind will tell.
Hours go by as the little girl creates tales for each picture in the book. As the night grows late, she sleeps, carried into slumber on dreams woven from the pictures and stories she imagined. When she wakes up, the girl wishes to spend more time with her new friends, but it’s time for school so she gathers up the book and hurries away.
On the path to school she meets a fox who is carrying a bag. “Excuse me, little girl,” says the fox. “I believe I have the words to your book.” The fox then explains how he caught the words as they spilled from the pages the day before. The fox gives her his parcel, but asks for a favor. The girl is happy to oblige and lets the fox stand on her shoulders to reach a bunch of grapes dangling from a nearby vine.
The girl rushes into school and apologizes for being late. She relates the story of the fox and the words and the magical night she has spent making up tales for the pictures in the book. “I have so many stories to tell you,” says the girl to her teacher. “‘I can’t want to hear,’” the teacher replies with a smile.”
Opening a book by Pamela Zagarenski is to fall into an alternate realm of such beauty and imagination that you forget the real world exists. Her paintings are composed of rich, regal hues swirling with images and designs that overlap and float to create the kind of experience only the deepest, most complex dreams allow. The characters and details follow page to page uniting the pictures and, subtly, the stories the little girl discovers in them: The teapot, once introduced, waits under a tree on the next page and rides the waves of the whale-filled sea in the next. The bees and the rabbit are constant companions on each spread, and the animals will fill the reader with awe.
The little girl’s imagined stories are tantalizing with just the right mix of the mysterious and the tangible to entice readers to add more. The frame of the Aesop Fable The Fox and the Grapes is inspired and could lead to a conversation about how “life is what you make it.”
The Whisper is a book readers will want to linger over and dip into again and again, and would be especially fun on those days when there’s “nothing” to do. It makes a beautiful gift for any occasion and would be a welcome addition to any home library.
Ages 4 – 9 (this book would also appeal to adults)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544416864
Picture Book Month Activity
I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate
Do you want to let everyone know which books are yours? Or just declare your love of books? Then display this printable I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate in your books. on your wall, or in your locker!
Picture Book Review