The mark of a silly old bear

Finding Winnie by Lindsay MattickThe wide-ranging artwork of contemporary children’s book illustrators earns the spotlight at an impressive exhibit at Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA.

Guest curator H. Nichols B. Clark has selected art by eight renowned artists, several of whom I’ve featured on this blog: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. For any children’s book lover in the Philadelphia area, the exhibit, running through October 9, is a must.

Since children, as well as us older ones, often face so many changes and challenges as the new school year approaches, this seems like the perfect time for a reassuring story such as Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, which earned Sophie Blackall the 2016 Caldecott Medal.

Blackall’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations provide a lively sense of movement, both literally and figuratively, and evoke sweet emotional connections among loved ones. The connection between children and their stuffed animals or similar toys is often psychologically rich and deserves attention and respect. This title taps that vein and adds an interesting realistic angle, as well.

The author, employing a story within a story, introduces readers to a loving mother and her rosy-cheeked son, Cole, cuddling at night while the child clutches his bear and requests a bedtime story — “a true story. One about a Bear.”

The mother tells the boy the story of veterinarian named Harry Colebourn, who, while heading off to serve in World War I, encountered a trapper with a baby black bear at a train depot. Colebourn, wanting to rescue the bear, bought it and took it across Canada to the army base in England. He named the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, his hometown.  Winnie made himself at home, but when the troop had to ship out to France, Colebourn managed to find his pet a new one, at the London Zoo. In time, a father and his son, Christopher Robin, visited the zoo, and the boy couldn’t get enough of the bear. His father, A.A. Milne, began to spin stories about the bear, whimsical stories that went on to garner a coveted spot at many a child’s bedside.

This endearing true story, told by Colebourn’s great-great granddaughter, has enough substance for upper elementary students, while also sweeping up younger ones.

Complement Finding Winnie with …

Knuffle Bunny by Mo WillemsDahlia by Barbara McClintockAlexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni.jpg

 

 

 

 

Sidman’s Fresh Winter Poems

Winter’s splendors shine in the latest collaboration between award-winning children’s poet Joyce Sidman and illustrator Rick Allen, whose stellar prints graced the author’s Newbery Honor-winning poetry collection Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (2010).Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman
As with their previous work, Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold hums with a glorious trio of lyrical poetry, vibrant artwork, and natural science explained in crisp prose. The dozen brief poems show off a range of voices, tones, and formats in a full-throated effort to move readers to appreciate how the natural world adapts to the cold.
Employing a clear, consistent format of vivid double-page spreads showcasing the poem on the left and scientific information on the right, the poet and illustrator work harmoniously to stunning effect. Opening with the graceful “Dream of the Tundra Swan,” the team then moves on to feature coiled snakes, a new snowflake that “leaps, laughing/ in a dizzy cloud,/a pinwheel gathering glitter,” a rascally moose, winter bees, and others.
Ms. Sidman performs a sprightly dance with each of her subjects, dipping into rich sensory details with élan and displaying her facility with rhyme, rhythm, and poetic devices. She writes some poems from the perspective of a particular animal (“Brother Raven, Sister Wolf”) and throughout, shows a remarkable talent in her choice of poetic form. For “Under Ice,” Ms. Sidman writes of beavers in the form of a pantoum, distinguished by a pattern of using the poem’s second and fourth lines as the first and third of the next stanza. The last stanza employs the first and third lines in reverse order; thus, the poem’s final line is the same as the first. In this way the poet comes full circle, opening and closing with the image of the beavers’ snug winter home, “the fat white wigwam.”
These fresh poems spring to life with Mr. Allen’s original linoleum block prints, hand-colored and digitally scanned, composed and layered. The snowy images on these pages quiver with movement and assorted perspectives. As readers note the tundra swan’s upcoming “yodel of flight,/the sun’s pale wafer,/the crisp drink of clouds,” they can trace the V formations the vigorous swans make as they soar above a frosty lake. On subsequent pages, we see a chickadee preening, springtails flipping, a wolf prowling, and a ravenous moose reaching for a slender tree branch. The artist’s pleasing range of perspectives— from the upward view of tall trees and frigid sky to the downward gaze at a small fox coiled for warmth– can’t help but engage the reader. The illustrator offers fascinating glimpses of such internal worlds as the beavers’ cramped rooms beneath an icy pond and the winter bees clustered around their queen.
Winter Bees will make for a lovely companion on a chilly night, accompanied by hot cocoa and snuggles with young ones. Even middle-schoolers won’t be able to resist this bright concoction of art, words, and science. The glossary at the end serves to clear up any confusion about scientific terms and poem forms related to the text.

Reprinted with permission from New York Journal of Books.

See also …

Story of Snow The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon NelsonEye to Eye How Animals See the World by Steve JenkinsOver and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Ashley Bryan’s Joyous Handiwork

In yet another celebration of creativity, acclaimed author/illustrator Ashley Bryan shares with readers his “family of hand puppets,” crafted with far-flung detritus. Peach pits become eyes … a coconut morphs into a head … a wishbone evokes whiskers. Oh, the random scraps that unfurl a panorama of puppets fit for the wildest tales!Ashley Bryan's Puppets

Ashley Bryan’s Puppets is not a craft book; rather, it’s an unusual poetry collection utilizing vibrant photos and a simple poem Bryan wrote for each of the 33 puppets showcased here. Clearly an act of love and joy, Bryan has bestowed every puppet with personality and a relevant name. Lubangi, meaning born in water, is a mermaid draped in netting studded with starfish and cockle shells. Jojo, the storyteller, has a head and hands made of gloves: “In every finger of my glove/ I tap tall tales of peace and love./ The fingers of my well-gloved hands/ Store stories told in foreign lands.”

In his note, the author/creator relates that as he walks the shores of his longtime home in the Cranberry Isles of Maine, he collects shells, bone, driftwood, nets, and sea glass. What child wouldn’t relate to this impulse? While readers won’t find instructions or photos of the author’s creative process (alas), they will find plenty of inspiration for their own puppets. Parents and young ones can use this book as a source for ideas, while teachers and librarians might select a few poems and photos to share as part of a puppet-making project based on folktales — perhaps using one of Bryan’s own vivid versions.

And see my prior post on Ashley Bryan.

 

Revelling in Rescued Parrots

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L Roth and Cindy TrumboreParrots Over Puerto Rico, winner of the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Medal, plunges readers into verdant forests where bright blue Puerto Rican parrots fluttered in ancient canopies for eons. This nonfiction picture book deftly tells the intertwined stories of the island’s history and of the birds’ near-extinction and subsequent recovery.

Known for her colorful collages, Susan Roth proves herself up to the challenge of creating vibrant, personality-filled images of the raucous flocks that once thronged the island that came to be called Puerto Rico. Using a pleasing range of textured paper and fabric and employing a vertical (rather than horizontal) layout, Roth depicts the lush natural environment filled with sierra palm trees, tiny tree frogs and crops of corn, yucca, and sweet potatoes.

Co-written with Cindy Trumbore, the book reveals the evolution of the island’s peoples and environment. The Tainos, who arrived around 800 CE, gave the parrots the name iguaca, echoing their harsh calls. In time, the Spanish came, as well as slaves brought from Africa. Predators such as black rats, thrashers, and swarms of honeybees invaded and attacked the parrots. By 1967, many forests had disappeared, and only 24 parrots lived in Puerto Rico.

Only a concerted effort by scientists, environmentalists, public officials, and citizens could save and protect the parrots. Scientists — and parrots — had to battle hurricanes, thunderstorms, wrecked buildings and trees. Thanks to decades of dedicated work, the parrots are still flying over their native isle.

Because of its somewhat detailed and abundant text, Parrots Over Puerto Rico lends itself best to one-on-one sharing or to independent reading by young nature lovers ages 8 to 10.

For more fine nonfiction picture books, see …

Moonbird by Phillip HooseMangrove Tree by Susan L Roth and Cindy TrumboreIsland Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

An elephant lost and found

The endearing little elephant featured in the Pomelo the Garden Elephant series keeps right on growing and investigating life’s myriad mysteries in Pomelo’s Big Adventure. Pomelo's Big Adventure by Ramona Badescu
Pomelo has already learned about colors, opposites, and his own physical development. The cotton-candy pink pachyderm that started out being the size of a radish has now outlasted his favorite puffball (which first appeared in Pomelo Begins to Grow, 2011) and decides to travel afar.
With characteristic quirkiness, Ms. Bădescu reveals what Pomelo packs in his knapsack; he includes not only the practical (toothbrush, matches, a map) but also amusingly childish objects: a stone, crayons, and acorns. The elephant’s simple thinking process is demonstrated by his strategy of choosing his path by tossing a beribboned stone and then proceeding in that direction.
Throughout Pomelo’s Big Adventure, a gentle spirit of exploration leads the protagonist and the reader onward. Oversize pages filled with Mr. Chaud’s witty, bright drawings that pop amidst white pages reflect the elephant’s sense of curiosity and openness to possibilities.
Along the way, the author provides adults with fresh opportunities to discuss universal questions with children. For instance, consider the elephant’s approach to new experiences: “He takes the route such as it is: prickly, uphill, sticky, boring, surprising, lively, and … lost in the distance.” And later, when Pomelo encounters a shifty rat who dupes him into trading his valuable supplies for a wind-up car that promptly falls apart, the elephant feels the way anyone who’s been tricked might: rueful, uncertain, homesick. In the midst of a gray rain, though, he decides to march on, and the author points out, “We take many risks in life, of course, but Pomelo seems to have plunged into a world ruled by chance.”
Soon, Pomelo encounters a helpful old elephant who offers the determined explorer not only food but much-needed emotional guidance that will enable him to enjoy his journey. The mature mentor, called Papamelo, gathers wood and teaches the little one how to build a boat. And then, in his wisdom, he tells Pomelo, “It’s time to leave.”
When the pink elephant encounters danger, the memory of lessons learned from Papamelo, spur him on. A final double-page spread parades the unforeseen benefits of this hero’s courage and fortitude. In a glowing, cheerful scene, we see Pomelo on the beach at sunset with his new friend—a lively, freckled starfish eager to share joyous experiences. Young readers will no doubt anticipate further adventures celebrating this wildly unlikely pair.

Reprinted with permission from the New York Journal of Books

See also …

Cousins of Clouds Elephant Poems by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer Elephant Quest by Ted and Betsy LewinTarra and Bella The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends

 

Time of the Season for Friends

With its understated title and its placid cover image of a rosy-cheeked lion with a small gray bird on his shoulder, The Lion and the Bird is clearly not where the wild things are. And that’s just finThe Lion and the Birde.
Instead, Canadian author/illustrator Marianne Dubuc uses simple language and a quiet palette of soft shades of tan, blue, and gray to evoke a calmer world where seasons and relationships evolve and where even the unlikeliest pair can become friends.
Dressed in denim overalls, Lion is hoeing one autumn day when a bird falls out of the sky and into his yard. Lion tenderly bandages the bird’s injured wing, and the other birds fly off without their fallen friend. No need to worry, Lion says, putting the bird atop his well-behaved mane. “You’re welcome to stay with me. There’s more than enough room for both of us.”
And so the two head to Lion’s mound-shaped home and begin their companionable life together. The author/illustrator gives readers both full-page and smaller, rough-shaped ovals of pencil drawings that show the friends falling into a sweet routine of sharing food, bedtime stories, and sleeping—Lion in a plain white bed and Bird nearby, tucked into a fuzzy pink bedroom slipper.
Winter brings snow, and the two have fun sledding and ice fishing together. “It snows and snows. But winter doesn’t feel all that cold with a friend.”
Change inevitably comes with spring, though, and Ms. Dubuc beautifully evokes the friends’ awareness that it’s time for Bird to rejoin the flock. Perched on a branch and pointing one wing toward the others, Bird looks at Lion. “Yes,” says Lion. “I know.” And just as Lion releases his friend, the author/illustrator lets white space nearly fill the next four pages.
Lion goes back to his daily routines while making adjustments; readers will note the single place setting at the table, the empty box by the fireplace, the uninhabited bedroom slipper. Soon it’s back to the garden for Lion, who takes pleasure in summer pastimes such as reading beneath a shade tree and fishing in a lake.
As fall returns, Lion can’t help but hope his friend will, too. The bird’s reappearance signifies the nature of friendship and the cycles of life, making for a satisfying ending that will nourish a sense of hope in young readers (especially ages 3 to 6).

Reprinted with permission from New York Journal of Books

See also …

Lion and the Mouse by Jerry PinkneyMy Friend Rabbit by Eric RohmannOne Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and pictures by David Small

With its understated title and placid cover image of a rosy-cheeked lion with a small gray bird on his shoulder, The Lion and the Bird is clearly not where the wild things are. And that’s just fine.

Instead, Ms. Dubuc, using simple language and a quiet palette of soft shades of tan, blue, and gray, envisions a calmer world where seasons and relationships evolve and where even the unlikeliest pair can become friends.

Dressed in denim overalls, Lion is hoeing one autumn day when a bird falls out of the sky and into his yard. Lion tenderly bandages the bird’s injured wing, and the other birds fly off without their fallen friend. No need to worry, Lion says, putting the bird atop his well-behaved mane. “You’re welcome to stay with me. There’s more than enough room for both of us.”

And so the two head to Lion’s mound-shaped home and begin their companionable life together. The author/illustrator gives readers both full-page and smaller, rough-shaped ovals of pencil drawings that show the friends falling into a sweet routine of sharing food, bedtime stories, and sleeping—Lion in a plain white bed and Bird nearby, tucked into a fuzzy pink bedroom slipper.

Winter brings snow, and the two have fun sledding and ice fishing together. “It snows and snows. But winter doesn’t feel all that cold with a friend.”

Change inevitably comes with spring, though, and Ms. Dubuc beautifully evokes the friends’ awareness that it’s time for Bird to rejoin the flock. Perched on a branch and pointing one wing toward the others, Bird looks at Lion. “Yes,” says Lion. “I know.” And just as Lion releases his friend, the author/illustrator lets white space nearly fill the next four pages.

Lion goes back to his daily routines while making adjustments; readers will note the single place setting at the table, the empty box by the fireplace, the uninhabited pink bedroom slippers. Soon it’s back to the garden for Lion, who takes pleasure in summer pastimes such as reading beneath a shade tree and fishing in a lake.

Fall returns, and Lion can’t help but hope his friend will, too. The bird’s reappearance signifies the nature of friendship and the cycles of life, making for a satisfying ending that young readers will relish.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/lion-and-bird#sthash.hqELM9t0.dpuf

It’s a Flying Mouse!

An adventurous spirit reaches new heights in Torben Kuhlmann’s debut picture book Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.   Lindbergh The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann
Any mouse with a swirling tail and a fervent wish to fly could snag a child’s interest, but Lindbergh immerses the reader in a fantastical world, with atmospheric, sepia-toned watercolors and pencil drawings and an imaginative plot with myriad historical links, portrayed with dramatic flair.
Intellectual curiosity propels the protagonist to take action, again and again. The furry, unnamed mouse camps out for months at a time in a library, reveling in leather-bound volumes conjured with a warm, vintage sepia palette. One day he emerges to discover he’s alone, as his friends have fled Hamburg after the “nightmarish” new mechanical mousetraps occupy homes.
Echoing the historic Charles Lindbergh 1927 transatlantic flight in reverse, the mouse decides he must fly to America. The author/illustrator, playing with the German word for bat, fledermaus, shows how our vivacious hero becomes inspired by observing bats. The rodent “carefully studied the strange flying relatives” and then sets out to construct his own flying contraption. Mr. Kuhlmann’s realistic pencil drawings recall Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Fittingly, we view the mouse’s sketch of a bat on one page and on the facing page, original designs for his own wings.
As with any inventor, the mouse must test his wings. Mr. Kuhlmann offers a lovely light-filled, drawn and painted scene of the Hamburg train station, with hurried travelers dressed in suits and hats. The eye lingers on the dramatic profile of the mouse atop the old clock as he anticipates takeoff. Although his attempt fails, the would-be pilot gains potentially useful information when he notices the trains get their power from steam.
Revisions lead to further improvements: wings and rudders. Readers will pore over the many humorous details that depict the miniature inventor’s thought process: how he pulls the shoelace from an old boot, how he peeps out of an old typewriter labeled Flieger (German for “flyer”), how he accumulates a multitude of springs and gears from timepieces.
The goggle-wearing mouse straps on his new and improved winged contraption and manages to fly briefly before crashing. Thanks to a photojournalist, the unusual pilot finds his way into the newspapers: “Hamburgs Fliegende Maus Gesichtet!” (Flying Mouse Spotted).
Stunningly, the next double-page spread shows large, orange-eyed owls studying the lead story and its photo of a mouse in midflight. Mr. Kuhlmann proceeds to ramp up the dramatic effect by providing subsequent images of the fierce predators as they spy on the mouse, even as he tinkers in his attic workshop.
The intrepid rodent receives a hero’s welcome when he eventually arrives in New York, and a mesmerized young Charles Lindbergh, with model airplane in hand, becomes inspired to aim high—or so it’s said in this alternate world. The engaging story is complemented by a short illustrated history of aviation, including a brief account of the American pilot who made history in his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis.
While longer than most picture books (mostly because of illustrations), Mr. Kuhlman’s Lindbergh soars with its distinctive artwork, spectacular details, and its bright little star. Highly recommended for ages 6 to 10.

Reprinted with permission from New York Journal of Books.

See also …

Flight by Robert BurleighFreddy the Pilot by Walter R. BrooksNobody Owns the Sky The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh

An adventurous spirit reaches new heights in Torben Kuhlmann’s debut picture book Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.

Any mouse with a swirling tail and a fervent wish to fly could snag a child’s interest, but Lindbergh immerses the reader in a fantastical world with atmospheric, sepia-toned watercolors and pencil drawings and an imaginative plot with myriad historical links portrayed with dramatic flair.

Intellectual curiosity propels the protagonist to take action again and again. The furry, unnamed mouse camps out for months at a time in a library, reveling in leather-bound volumes conjured with a warm, vintage sepia palette. One day he emerges to discover he’s alone, as his friends have fled Hamburg after the “nightmarish” new mechanical mousetraps occupy homes.

Echoing the historic Charles Lindbergh 1927 transatlantic flight in reverse, the mouse decides he must fly to America. The author/illustrator, playing with the German word for bat, fledermaus, shows how our vivacious hero becomes inspired by observing bats. The rodent “carefully studies the strange flying relatives” and then sets out to construct his own flying contraption. Kuhlmann’s realistic pencil drawings recall Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Fittingly, we view the mouse’s sketch of a bat on one page and on the facing page, original designs for his own wings.

As with any inventor, the mouse must test his wings. Kuhlmann offers a lovely light-filled, drawn and painted scene of the Hamburg train station, with hurried travelers dressed in suits and hats. The eye lingers on the dramatic profile of the mouse atop the old clock as he anticipates takeoff. Although his attempt fails, the would-be pilot gains potentially useful information when he notices the trains get their power from steam.

Revisions lead to further improvements: wings and rudders. Readers will pore over the many humorous details that depict the miniature inventor’s thought process: how he pulls the shoelace from an old boot, how he peeps out of an old typewriter labeled Flieger  (German for “flyer”), how he accumulates a multitude of springs and gears from timepieces.

The goggle-wearing mouse straps on his new and improved winged contraption and manages to fly briefly before crashing. Thanks to a photojournalist, the unusual pilot finds his way into the newspapers: “Hamburgs Fliegende Maus Gesichtet!” (Flying Mouse Spotted).

Stunningly, the next double-page spread shows large, orange-eyed owls studying the lead story and its photo of a mouse in midflight. Kuhlmann proceeds to ramp up the dramatic effect by providing subsequent images of the fierce predators as they spy on the mouse, even as he tinkers in his attic workshop.

SPOILER ALERT: The intrepid rodent receives a hero’s welcome when he eventually arrives in New York, and a mesmerized young Charles Lindbergh, with model airplane in hand, becomes inspired to aim high—or so it’s said in this alternate world. The engaging story is complemented by a short illustrated history of aviation, including a brief account of the American pilot who made history in his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis.

While longer than most picture books (mostly because of illustrations), Kuhlman’s Lindbergh soars with its distinctive artwork, spectacular details, and its bright little star.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/lindbergh-tale-flying-mouse#sthash.rgHcP9Ug.dpuf

An adventurous spirit reaches new heights in Torben Kuhlmann’s debut picture book Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.

Any mouse with a swirling tail and a fervent wish to fly could snag a child’s interest, but Lindbergh immerses the reader in a fantastical world with atmospheric, sepia-toned watercolors and pencil drawings and an imaginative plot with myriad historical links portrayed with dramatic flair.

Intellectual curiosity propels the protagonist to take action again and again. The furry, unnamed mouse camps out for months at a time in a library, reveling in leather-bound volumes conjured with a warm, vintage sepia palette. One day he emerges to discover he’s alone, as his friends have fled Hamburg after the “nightmarish” new mechanical mousetraps occupy homes.

Echoing the historic Charles Lindbergh 1927 transatlantic flight in reverse, the mouse decides he must fly to America. The author/illustrator, playing with the German word for bat, fledermaus, shows how our vivacious hero becomes inspired by observing bats. The rodent “carefully studies the strange flying relatives” and then sets out to construct his own flying contraption. Kuhlmann’s realistic pencil drawings recall Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Fittingly, we view the mouse’s sketch of a bat on one page and on the facing page, original designs for his own wings.

As with any inventor, the mouse must test his wings. Kuhlmann offers a lovely light-filled, drawn and painted scene of the Hamburg train station, with hurried travelers dressed in suits and hats. The eye lingers on the dramatic profile of the mouse atop the old clock as he anticipates takeoff. Although his attempt fails, the would-be pilot gains potentially useful information when he notices the trains get their power from steam.

Revisions lead to further improvements: wings and rudders. Readers will pore over the many humorous details that depict the miniature inventor’s thought process: how he pulls the shoelace from an old boot, how he peeps out of an old typewriter labeled Flieger  (German for “flyer”), how he accumulates a multitude of springs and gears from timepieces.

The goggle-wearing mouse straps on his new and improved winged contraption and manages to fly briefly before crashing. Thanks to a photojournalist, the unusual pilot finds his way into the newspapers: “Hamburgs Fliegende Maus Gesichtet!” (Flying Mouse Spotted).

Stunningly, the next double-page spread shows large, orange-eyed owls studying the lead story and its photo of a mouse in midflight. Kuhlmann proceeds to ramp up the dramatic effect by providing subsequent images of the fierce predators as they spy on the mouse, even as he tinkers in his attic workshop.

SPOILER ALERT: The intrepid rodent receives a hero’s welcome when he eventually arrives in New York, and a mesmerized young Charles Lindbergh, with model airplane in hand, becomes inspired to aim high—or so it’s said in this alternate world. The engaging story is complemented by a short illustrated history of aviation, including a brief account of the American pilot who made history in his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis.

While longer than most picture books (mostly because of illustrations), Kuhlman’s Lindbergh soars with its distinctive artwork, spectacular details, and its bright little star.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/lindbergh-tale-flying-mouse#sthash.rgHcP9Ug.dpuf

An adventurous spirit reaches new heights in Torben Kuhlmann’s debut picture book Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.

Any mouse with a swirling tail and a fervent wish to fly could snag a child’s interest, but Lindbergh immerses the reader in a fantastical world with atmospheric, sepia-toned watercolors and pencil drawings and an imaginative plot with myriad historical links portrayed with dramatic flair.

Intellectual curiosity propels the protagonist to take action again and again. The furry, unnamed mouse camps out for months at a time in a library, reveling in leather-bound volumes conjured with a warm, vintage sepia palette. One day he emerges to discover he’s alone, as his friends have fled Hamburg after the “nightmarish” new mechanical mousetraps occupy homes.

Echoing the historic Charles Lindbergh 1927 transatlantic flight in reverse, the mouse decides he must fly to America. The author/illustrator, playing with the German word for bat, fledermaus, shows how our vivacious hero becomes inspired by observing bats. The rodent “carefully studies the strange flying relatives” and then sets out to construct his own flying contraption. Kuhlmann’s realistic pencil drawings recall Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Fittingly, we view the mouse’s sketch of a bat on one page and on the facing page, original designs for his own wings.

As with any inventor, the mouse must test his wings. Kuhlmann offers a lovely light-filled, drawn and painted scene of the Hamburg train station, with hurried travelers dressed in suits and hats. The eye lingers on the dramatic profile of the mouse atop the old clock as he anticipates takeoff. Although his attempt fails, the would-be pilot gains potentially useful information when he notices the trains get their power from steam.

Revisions lead to further improvements: wings and rudders. Readers will pore over the many humorous details that depict the miniature inventor’s thought process: how he pulls the shoelace from an old boot, how he peeps out of an old typewriter labeled Flieger  (German for “flyer”), how he accumulates a multitude of springs and gears from timepieces.

The goggle-wearing mouse straps on his new and improved winged contraption and manages to fly briefly before crashing. Thanks to a photojournalist, the unusual pilot finds his way into the newspapers: “Hamburgs Fliegende Maus Gesichtet!” (Flying Mouse Spotted).

Stunningly, the next double-page spread shows large, orange-eyed owls studying the lead story and its photo of a mouse in midflight. Kuhlmann proceeds to ramp up the dramatic effect by providing subsequent images of the fierce predators as they spy on the mouse, even as he tinkers in his attic workshop.

SPOILER ALERT: The intrepid rodent receives a hero’s welcome when he eventually arrives in New York, and a mesmerized young Charles Lindbergh, with model airplane in hand, becomes inspired to aim high—or so it’s said in this alternate world. The engaging story is complemented by a short illustrated history of aviation, including a brief account of the American pilot who made history in his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis.

While longer than most picture books (mostly because of illustrations), Kuhlman’s Lindbergh soars with its distinctive artwork, spectacular details, and its bright little star.

– See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/lindbergh-tale-flying-mouse#sthash.rgHcP9Ug.dpuf

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