Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell; illustrated by Matthew Cordell. 2017. Pen, ink with watercolor. Published by Feiwel and Friends.
Brief summary: A young girl walks to school in the snow but leaves due to a blizzard. She gets lost in the whiteout at the same time a young wolf pup does too. They meet each other where she picks him up as the snow is too deep for him to walk. She follows the howling of wolves in the distance where she meets his mother. She puts the pup down before trying to head home to the lights in the distance. Exhausted, she curls up in the woods where the wolves sit around her howling back to her hound dog. Her mother finds her and all ends well.
Comments: What a great story without words picture books. Young readers will be in suspense as they wonder if the two will be able to survive the blizzard.
Graduation Day by Piotr Parda; illustrated by Piotr Parda. 2017. Watercolor, monoprint. Published by Ripple Grove Press.
Brief summary: First scene. There is a student dressed in a graduation gown and mortar looking out of a school window smiling. The wordless story continues with the setting through a bird’s view of a city block all in gray with a school yard in the center. Closer look. There are cracks all over the school building and concrete grounds. Next is a large graduation day banner. Then we see where the plot begins. The student is a victim of a group of children jeering at her, and one shoots a sunflower seed through a straw hitting her in the neck. She picks up the seed. They all go to the graduation ceremony, hear the speech, and throw their hats in the air. Kids are happy and go home with family members.
She walks alone down the school’s gray halls to her locker one last time where there is a jar full of sunflower seeds revealing to the reader just what type of life this young lady endured. She takes the jar and goes about the empty school grounds planting sunflower seeds in the cracks creating a beautiful bright yellow space.
Comments: Wow. So many words and emotions for a story without words. Not the usual happiness on someone’s graduation day. This is a story of a person who has been bullied many times made evident of all the sunflower seeds collected in her locker’s jar. She was able to take that hate and meanness and loneliness to create the only bright color in the book…a sunflower garden. This is a resonating story without words that is not a preachy bullying message of “do not bully; it’s wrong.” This is about a victim who, despite it all, is able to create hope and beauty where there must have been a lot of heartache. The symbolism of the sunflowers can be understood by even younger readers.
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Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood; illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. 2016. Acrylic glasses and paints, collage, drawings, and digital mediums then used on stipple paper.
Brief summary: Ada Rios lives in a town of trash where garbage trucks dump up to 1,500 tons of it a day. Gancheros (recyclers) go through the bags looking for anything to sell. Favio Chavez, a music teacher, comes to teach musical instruments, but there are not enough to go around and too expensive for the students to take home to practice. He goes to the gancheros of Cateura to ask for their help in making instruments from bits and pieces of materials found in the trash. With a strict schedule of practice, the students excel and become famous performing all over the world.
Comments: What an inspirational story! Great book to share in music class. Click here for more information about the orchestra. There is an author’s note explaining the city and orchestra.