Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

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 Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
with illustrations by Gilbert Ford
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, Ages 4-8)

* A Junior Library Guild Selection

MrFerris-Wheel-cvr.jpgBefore I read this fascinating nonfiction picture book about the history of the first Ferris Wheel, I had no idea of the backstory; the competition to find and build a structure for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that would be taller than the Eiffel Tower, the lack of financial support for its construction, the grueling work on the foundation in the dead of winter, the tight timeline in which to complete it, and the lack of faith professionals and the public had in the project. I’m thankful to Kathryn Gibbs Davis for opening my eyes to innovator, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.

“George had an idea, an idea for a structure that would dazzle and move, not just stand still like the Eiffel Tower.”

What wonderful feats of engineering and willpower enabled Ferris to prove all the naysayers wrong! Over 1.5 million naysayers to be precise, the amount of people who rode on the wheel at 50 cents apiece in the “nineteen weeks” that it was in operation. And they said it couldn’t be done. Not only did Ferris change the public’s mind, but he changed history by building out of steel, what is now a staple of amusement park rides.

“George knew something the chief did not. His invention would be delicate-looking and strong. It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal — steel.”

On almost every spread, Davis has managed to weave in assorted facts about the wheel’s invention in a way that will keep youngsters as engaged and enthralled as I was. The story itself flows easily and the artwork is simply lovely to look at. Ford‘s fabulous jewel-toned illustrations of 19th century Chicago took me back in time to an era in the industrial age when even electricity in homes was not yet commonplace. But as the sun set each evening, Ferris’s wheel, with is 3,000 electric light bulbs, lit up the night sky and was visible “as far away as forty miles.” I was happy to learn that after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in 1894 “the next Ferris wheel appeared in California on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.”

How sad I was to discover in the back matter (where sources are quoted, and a bibliography along with helpful websites are provided) that a New York Times obituary says Ferris passed away on November 23, 1896 while still in his thirties. I can just imagine all the other innovative contributions he could have made to society had he lived longer. As it is, the enduring popularity of his ride is a testament to Ferris’s genius, and Davis has done a terrific job conveying that in a most readable, enjoyable way.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here for a link to a reading guide.

WIN A COPY!
Leave a comment below about your favorite carnival ride then follow us on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of this must-have picture book. No entries after 11:59p.m. PST on February 11, 2015. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on Thursday Feb. 12, 2015. If you do not leave a comment you will forfeit your chance to win.


Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet, A Review, Interview & Giveaway

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MIX IT UP! FUN FOR EVERYONE

9780811879545_largeGood Reads With Ronna recently interviewed notable Parisian artist and author Hervé Tullet via email before his upcoming trip to Los Angeles. Tullet, the creative force behind the best-selling Press Here, and his latest, Mix It Up!, will be at both MOCA & LACMA this weekend conducting mural workshops for children using his books as inspiration. Both books are published by Chronicle Books, cost $15.99 each, and are recommended for ages 3-5.

REVIEW
Mix It Up!
is an interactive board book of the coolest kind. It’s the type of book children will reach for frequently, and each time engage with it in a new and exciting way. Picking up where Press Here left off – although each book stands on its own – Mix It Up! requires no battery or password. In fact it’s better than any app because youngsters get to hold the book in their hands and take a journey through color under Tullet’s expert tutelage. Note: Insert fab French accent here, “Tap that gray spot. Just a little, to see what happens.”

Written in the second person, Mix It Up! invites kids to place their hands on the page, close their eyes, and count to five then MIX IT UP! They can tap, rub, smudge and smoosh to their hearts’ content without getting a drop of paint on them. I couldn’t wait to turn each page to see what Tullet had in store. This book got me away from the computer and onto my feet, moving, tilting and turning pages to and fro, but really, it’s okay to read it seated as well!  The best part is finding out what happens when various colors come together on the page. Tullet’s text will make each youngster interacting with Mix It Up! feel satisfied, successful and ready to smoosh some colors on their own. – Ronna Mandel

INTERVIEW
Good Reads With Ronna:  At what age would you recommend parents begin introducing art to their children to look at? To engage in?

Hervé Tullet: Babies don’t know anything, which is why I think they know everything. With their eyes they experience everything as new and interpret everything without any prior experience. This is imagination. They are the artists, our real artists, that’s why I think that museums are the perfect place to feed them with colors and shapes and sensations without any restrictions (except maybe at feeding time!)

GRWR: Were you stirred and moved by art as young as age three – five like the age of the kids your books are geared to?

TULLET: It was a different time, and people didn’t raise children the way they do now. During my childhood, I learned a lot from being alone, from being bored, from not knowing. When I was a teenager, books and museum became my way out, my breath, my salvation

GRWR: Your new book is just so kid-friendly. Why do you think no one has thought of your brilliant idea for a book like Mix It Up! sooner?

Herve Tullet_standing with paint_HiRes.jpgTULLET: On the one hand, hand I think that ideas are in the air and everybody can catch them. That’s what happens when you find one; it looks like it came out of the blue. On the other hand, I think that it is a long process of maturation and that I spent lot of time on, nearly obsessed, to find, to  think, to search, go on thinking again, erase, cut and at last find  the ideas.

Press Here and Mix it Up! are the result of this long process, the high point of 20 years of exploration and work.

GRWR: By having kids get down on their hands and knees with some color and a paintbrush (at your workshops), while you’re out there motivating them, what are the things you’d like to achieve?

TULLET: I’m motivated by having a great time all together and making great memories. And maybe, from this experience, it will create a desire to have another one, or it will be a seed that will flourish later on, out of the blue. Or, maybe not exactly out of the blue.

GRWR: What do kids say to you after they’ve worked on the enormous mural?

Mix-It-Up-cvr.jpgTULLET: A look, a smile, a word, a hand shake, a kiss, a sign, a thank you. All these are so deep, so sincere, so true, to me that I accept all of them as true gifts.

Here’s some advice Tullet offers attendees to this weekend’s artsy workshops: “… one thing, please listen to my prompts very carefully. That’s it! That’s all what you have to do! Except the babies of course, they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do!”

Don’t miss Tullet’s L.A. appearances this weekend at MOCA & LACMA on Saturday, 10/11 and Sunday, 10/12. Head to L.A. Parent to get more details by clicking here. In that article, you can also read Tullet’s reply to my question: Is there anything you’d like to say to the families of L.A. and Southern California who will be attending your events?  I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of his warm and welcoming response.

To purchase Press Here and Mix It Up! head to your local independent bookseller.

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Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman Blog Tour & Giveaway

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Find Magic & Mystery in Twelve Dancing Unicorns
written by Alissa Heyman and illustrated by Justin Gerard
Blog Tour & Giveaway

A little girl’s good intentions enable her to accomplish what grown men could not in
Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman with illustrations by Justin Gerard, (Sterling Children’s Books 2014, $14.95, Ages 4-7).

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Cover of Twelve Dancing Unicorns. Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.

Those of you familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the brothers Grimm, will enjoy this enchanting adaptation of the popular fairy tale. For those of you who haven’t read Grimm’s fairy tales, Twelve Dancing Unicorns, a stunning new picture book, easily stands on its own.

Despite being guarded by his finest men, the king finds his twelve prized unicorns mysteriously break free of their golden chains each night unseen by the watchmen. People come from all over the land to see the unicorns, but one young girl has grown particularly fond of the smallest one. She sees the creatures are unhappy being cooped up, and wants to help them.

When the king offers to grant a wish to anyone who can solve the mystery of the broken chains, the girl is the first to step up. Laughed at by the townspeople, and chided by the king for being too young to handle such a task, the girl remains undaunted. With the help of her mother, who gives her an invisibility cloak, and the bright moonlit sky, the girl discovers the unicorns’ secret, and has quite an adventure in the process.

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Interior Artwork Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.

I was reminded of Jan Brett’s illustrations, as I got lost in Gerard’s ability to capture otherworldly beauty in his work. His use of page and picture boarders provides a classic fairy tale feel to a modern book. I found Heyman’s lyrical story book style of writing very appealing; her words capturing the wonder and glory of the mystical world of unicorns.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns: a must read, must keep, and must pass down from generation to generation picture book.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

Blog Tour & Giveaway:

Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on ‘lil Burghers by clicking here.

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