Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Blog Tour: What a Beautiful Morning

whatABeautifulWhat a Beautiful Morning, by Arthur A. Levine/Illustrated by Katie Kath (Aug. 2016, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-7624-5906-3

“Summer days at Grandpa’s house began with a booming song…”

Noah and Grandpa wake up every morning and sing songs, go exploring, whatever was “on the docket” for the day. One year, though, Noah noticed that Grandpa began to forget things: to ask what was on the docket, how to cut his French toast, and once, even who Noah was. Grandma explains that sometimes, Grandpa gets confused, but still knows and loves Noah. After a little time to think, Noah discovers that he can still reach Grandpa through song. What a Beautiful Morning is the sensitive, touching story of how one family walks “down the road together… for as long as the song would last.”

There is no specific condition mentioned, but it’s something too many families know too well. When a relative, particularly an older relative, like a grandparent, experiences memory loss, it’s a hard thing to bear. I remember seeing it happen when my husband’s grandmother experienced it, and I remember seeing my own children struggle with their emotions when it happened. Arthur Levine, author of What a Beautiful Morning, writes with an empathy borne from understanding. Katie Kath’s uses her line and watercolor art to communicate the emotions in the story, with bright, happy color to emphasize the joy in Noah and his grandparents’ household, fading to shades of gray when Grandpa forgets. When Grandpa’s memory kicks in, she draws the color back to the page subtly and beautifully.

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What a Beautiful Morning is a beautifully written and illustrated book that reaches out to families going through a difficult time. It’s a strong addition to special topics in any collection; school, public, or, if needed, personal.

Arthur Levine was kind enough to write a special note to readers:

Dear Readers,

It’s estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. But millions more belong to families (many with young children) who have loved ones directly affected by it, and other forms of memory loss.

My dad suffered from Alzheimer’s. My family is one of those families. My son was one of those young children.

My dad was a joyful, vibrant, brilliant man.  It was unbelievably hard to watch those qualities fade before my very eyes. And I kept wondering how my son, just 7 and 8 at the time, was coping with it.

My little guy would be so kind. I quoted him in the book gently showing his grandpa where the fork was. And he would hold his grandpa’s hand, leading him to the bathroom, or to dinner.

Meanwhile friends told us to appreciate what he still had day by day and we tried to do that. But it was difficult when I could no longer even talk to him, really.  But then we discovered that singing was a way we could still connect – My father could reproduce lyrics to entire songs.  And the pleasure on his face when that happened was unmistakable. 

Singing songs like “What a Beautiful Morning” was almost like having a conversation again.

It gave us both pleasure and comfort as I hope this book will do for so many who are experiencing the same thing with a family member or neighbor or friend.

Thank you to all you parents/teachers/librarians and caring family members who are reading this blog.  If you want to know more about how to use my book to open discussions with kids about memory loss please visit http://bit.ly/2a2nIVY.

-Arthur A. Levine

Arthur A. Levine’s Scholastic imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books, publishes the Harry Potter series in the United States. Katie Kath illustrates children’s and middle grade books, including The Nora Notebooks series, and Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Roar! A Tale of Friendship and Sleepless Adventure

roarRoar! by Julie Bayless (Oct. 2015, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9780762457502

Recommended for ages 2-5

A little lion cub can’t get to sleep. When he tries to wake up his family to play, their snores send him roaming the savannah in search of fun. He meets a group of hippos and a group of giraffes, but his friendly “ROAR” scares them off, but he and a bunny hit it off perfectly, and spend the rest of the night yelling “ROAR!” and “MORE!” together!

Roar! is a fun tale of friendship and adventuring. Kids (and sleepy parents) will recognize themselves in the little lion cub, trying to no avail to wake up the sleepy grownups to have some fun. The little guy’s no predator, but his friendly exclamation scares off much bigger animals; when he meets a similarly spunky bunny, the fun begins.

The book mixes graphic novel-style panels with full-page spreads and shifts in perspective, making this a fun read that will keep little ones engaged. It’s interactive – I’ve read this to toddlers and preschoolers, and we’ve hollered “ROAR!” and “MORE!” to our hearts’ content as we read through the book. I had one group of toddlers demand a second reading, and the roars were wonderful!

The digital art has a beautiful sharpness to it. The backgrounds are largely dark violet-blue, with the animals crisply defined against them. There are few words to the story: mostly “Roar” and “More”, with a few snores, burps and sniffs thrown in for good measure, so there is a lot of room for interaction – kids can describe the land, name the animals the cub encounters, and veer off into their own narration.

Roar is a great storytime book, bedtime book, anytime book. It’s been kid-tested, mother and librarian approved – don’t miss it!