10.18.2012

Halloween City: The Trip

The Trip 
Author/Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats
Publisher: Penguin Group
Pub. Date: 1978

The Trip by Ezra Jack Keats is one of the lesser known titles by this great children's book author/illustrator. I came across it quite by accident in our local library and was delighted to discover it just in time for Halloween. Frankly, I had all but dispaired of finding a good urban picture book with a Halloween element.

Louie has just moved into a new apartment. Since he doesn't have any friend yet so he retreats to his room and builds a diorama. Using his imagination, Louie flies through the miniature world he has constructed, meeting up with friends he misses. It is Halloween and and he takes his costumed friends on a plane trip through his former neighborhood. When his mom's voice and cries of "Trick or treat!" make their way through the wall of Louie's imagination, he ventures outside to discover some new friends waiting for him.

Keats' book works on so many levels, it is a shame it is out of print. It is story of friendship, of loneliness, artistic creativity and of the power of imagination all wrapped into one. Keats' trademark illustrative style shines as he transports us from a real world grounded by oil paints to the imaginary one of collage, photographs, crayon drawings and marbled skies.

As in all of Keats' books, the urban landscape is essential to the story's world. Skyscrapers full of windows are the backdrop for Louie's imaginary world and his apartment building frames his reality. The opening page reminds us just how much of the urban life revolves around street activity when Louie is disappointed to discover, "there weren't even any steps in front of the door to sit on." How is an urban kid to make friends if he has no stoop from which to survey the world!  When you see the world from this perspective Halloween becomes the perfect holiday to introduce him to the neighborhood. After all, is there any other holiday in which so much of the celebration takes place outside on the sidewalks?

Despite this book being out of print, I bet it The Trip is in many libraries around the country, thanks to its famous author. Check out a copy before Halloween. You won't be sorry you did.

Highly Recommended.

Want More?
Visit the official website of the Ezra Jack Keats foundation. Here is the page for The Trip.
In NYC, The Jewish Museum had Keats exhibit. You can read about his art here.
Louie appears in other Keats books, including Louie's Search, Louie and Regards to the Man in the Moon.
Watch some kids talk about the book:

10.09.2012

Collaborative City: A Poem As Big As New York City

A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple
Illustrator: Masha D'yans
Editors: Teachers and Writers Collaborative
Publisher: Universe Publishing (Rizzoli)
Pub. Date: September 4, 2012

I am so pleased to be able to tell you today about a very unique poetry book.

The Teachers & Writers Collaborative, an organization that helps children develop their creative writing skills, led a series of workshops in public schools and libraries across New York City. The children who participated worked on writing poems about what it's like to live in The Big Apple.  The resulting poems, "stacks of poems on hundreds of loose leaf pages" as adapter Melanie Maria Gooreaux described them in the introduction, were collected and edited to create one big poem. The result is the marvelous A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple

The overall feeling of A Poem as Big as New York City is joyous. It is clear that the authors love their city. A smiling, curious anthropomorphous Poem is the thread that holds the poem's story together.  In the image below you can see the "Poem" illustrated as a graphic character formed out of words taken from the poem itself.


The Poem travels through the five boroughs of the city, narrating its journey, sometimes in the third person,
The poem walked by the East River and reached up
to touch a pink-and-white striped sky.
It passed by the Chrysler Building,
and it looked like a wealthy woman
who just couldn't hide her jewels.
and sometimes in the first person,
I jumped inside a parking meter
and heard the soul of New York City
crunching like quarters.
but always celebrating the uniqueness of the city: the sounds, sights, smells and even the taste.

The journey of the Poem somehow manages to be both magical and realistic, individual and collective. It celebrates the diversity of New York City's people, places and experiences. There's an exhilarating sense of movement throughout the lines as the reader is carried along with the Poem through the streets, underground and above the skyscrapers. I love the final image of the Poem in front of the New York Public Library. The Poem is reading a book, the cover of which is a diverse group of faces. It is as if one can never get enough; instead of being exhausted by the action and excitement, the Poem (and the reader) just wants more.

Masha D'yans's beautiful watercolor illustrations are both ethereal and vibrant, if that is possible, and effectively capture the jubliant quality of the poem. It is hard not to smile as we see the Poem lounge on the grass of Central Park, swing through the sky on the suspension lines of Brooklyn Bridge, and munch on a black and white cookie during a shopping trip. How she managed to make two black circles look like so inquisitive is a feat in and of itself.


The perfect final touch is the credit page at the end of the book in which the names of participating libraries and school are arranged to resemble a cityscape, as if to remind us that the children are what make up the the city.

I know this book will be loved by New York City residents and I hope it finds an audience beyond that because it's a great ambassador for the city.

Want More?
Visit the Teachers & Writers Collaborative website to learn about their writing workshops and programs.
Read other reviews at Great Kid BooksWhere the Best Books Are, and NC Teacher Stuff,
Visit the illustrator's website (you can see more artwork from the book here).

Special thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of the book.
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