Deborah Marcero Presents Ursa’s Light

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URSA’S LIGHT
Written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero
(Peter Pauper Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

cover image from Ursa's Light by Deborah Marcero

★ Starred Review – Booklist

 

As a preschool teacher, it is not lost on me when a child has a BIG idea, but may need some help executing the plan. Ursa’s Light, the debut picture book by author and illustrator Deborah Marcero, is about a young bear, Ursa, who has BIG ideas that often leave her peers and parents scratching their heads in wonder.

Ursa the bear knows that she is meant to FLY. She studies animals and planes in flight, intent on finding a solution, often encouraged by her baby brother. Just when she is about to give up, we discover that she was indeed meant to fly, but there is more than one way to SOAR.

 

Interior artwork from Ursa's Light by Deborah Marcero

Interior spread from Ursa’s Light written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, Peter Pauper Press ©2016.

 

One of my favorite moments in the story is when Ursa’s failed attempts at flying make her doubt herself, and her baby brother is wearing a shirt that reads ‘believe.’ What a beautiful moment, and something I strive to teach my kids, when one of us is down, someone else can help lift us UP.

What is so brilliant about Ursa the bear, is that she isn’t attempting to outshine anyone; instead, she is allowing her unique inner light to pour out, inspiring not only her baby brother, but everyone around her.

 

Interior artwork from Ursa's Light by Deborah Marcero

Interior spread from Ursa’s Light written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, Peter Pauper Press ©2016.

 

I fell in love with the energy and emotion of the illustrations which Marcero’s website describes best here: “When the pencil is done… I ink the lines in and add color with all the media I had used all along : woodblock cuts, watercolor, gouache, ink wash, etc. But instead of meshing everything together on paper with scissors and glue, I taught myself how to collage them in Photoshop. Ursa’s face is that same woodblock cut as my very first piece above, and all the textures and colors I integrate are things that I come up with using brushes and inks and watercolors on my drawing table.” I hope it’s obvious how much I adore this book and can’t wait to bring in Ursa’s Light for my preschoolers! I have a feeling they are going to want me to help them fly too!

 

Interior artwork from Ursa's Light by Deborah Marcero

Interior spread from Ursa’s Light written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, Peter Pauper Press ©2016.

 

  • Reviewed by Ozma Bryant, our newest reviewer. To learn more about Ozma, please click here.

 

 

 

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No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser

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NO YETI YET
Written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser
(Peter Pauper Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

 

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It’s been the year of yeti themed books, and by far my favorite has been No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser.

As two brothers, identified by height and clothing only, stare at the snowy day outside their window, the older one announces they’re going in search of a yeti, “a shaggy white one.” Why? Well to take its picture, of course! Wouldn’t you do the same? And so begins this whimsical tale that feels like an homage to a personal fave, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Only the surprise ending in Fraser’s picture book doesn’t involve closing a door to keep the creature out. Nope! Something truly unexpected happens that’s worth turning every single delightful page for.

 

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Interior artwork from No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser, Peter Pauper Press, ©2015.

 

From the get go, Fraser’s wintry artwork with its wonderful contrasts of chilly outdoors and warm, colorful indoors, invites reading on to learn more and look for more. See the gentle way the yeti above is holding a bird in its hand (or paw, or whatever yetis have)? Readers are shown there actually is a yeti, but the humor is in the boys never seeing him. I love the image of the yeti covered in snow and the one where the kids walk right over his hiding spot. In fact, when you read No Yeti Yet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the text and illustrations work beautifully together to move the story forward.

 

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Interior artwork from No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser, Peter Pauper Press, ©2015.

 

 

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Interior artwork from No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser, Peter Pauper Press, ©2015.

 

The brothers have lots of fun throughout their quest and Fraser masterfully builds anticipation as the boys get closer to the inevitable – the yeti’s cave. Parents reading the story aloud to little ones can point out the hidden yeti or his footprints, while older children will get a kick out of spotting clues (and the yet) on their own.

 

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Interior artwork from No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser, Peter Pauper Press, ©2015.

 

Once inside the cave, the lads encounter the yeti, and quite alarmed, they flee. The yeti, now in possession of the camera, chases the two brothers all the way home. By this time you may be wondering who your kids will be rooting for because Fraser’s yeti isn’t the least bit scary, making it easy to share No Yeti Yet at bedtime, or anytime for that matter. The takeaway that looks can be deceiving is an important one and this book provides a comfortable way to start that conversation. Oh, and parents, SPOILER ALERT, you might want to have some hot cocoa on hand for when you do.

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 


FRED by Kaila Eunhye Seo

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FRED
Written and illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo
(Peter Pauper Press; $15.99, Ages 4-8)

 

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The back cover of FRED, a new picture book, teases readers by posing an interesting question: “What would you do if you had the ability to see and believe in things that others could not?”  It is a compelling invitation to dive into the magical and mystical world of the protagonist, Fred, a small town boy whose imaginary friends fill his world with fun.

Seo builds a fantasy story in which our ordinary day-to-day activities like walking, reading, and shopping are enhanced by kindly gentle creatures who help us by moving branches and providing shade. We can’t see these delightful furry, multi-eyed, prong-horned critters who have the best of intentions, but lucky Fred can! Together he and the creatures jump, swing, and slide and become the best of friends.

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Interior artwork from FRED, written and illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo, Peter Pauper Press ©2015.

 

When Fred gets a bit older, he starts school and his days are filled with new, human friends. But his faithful companions remain nearby, looking in the classroom windows, stretching beside him in gym class, and chomping in the cafeteria. After school, Fred wants to play with his new friends. Day after day, the critters wait patiently for Fred, until their hope slowly fades away. Then one day, Fred forgets about them entirely and doesn’t even see them anymore.

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Interior artwork from FRED, written and illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo, Peter Pauper Press ©2015.

 

Seo’s talents lie squarely in the illustration arena, and her black and white scenes are filled with delightful details and crisp composition. Fred’s imaginary friends are cuddly and fierce some at once, with wide set round eyes, horns striped like party hats, and wonderfully shaggy fur. They have sweetly fanged smiles and enthusiastic expressions. On the fateful day that Fred ages away, their sad, droopy faces will wring your heartstrings.

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Interior artwork from FRED, written and illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo, Peter Pauper Press ©2015.

 

Seo restores color, light and joy to the last pages through Fred’s chance encounter with a special, generous girl. This gentle tale is a sweet balm for little readers who like cuddly monsters, imaginary friends, and happy endings. FRED can’t guarantee that you will begin to see benevolent beasts, but you may find a small flicker of hidden magic in your heart.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of FRED from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Click here for a Common Core Teaching Guide


A Big Bear And a Little Egg

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Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley (Peter Pauper Press, Inc., $16.99; ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

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I fell in love with Hank Finds an Egg in no time flat. It is the sweet, endearing story of Hank, a bear, who finds an egg on the forest floor and wants to return it to its nest.  Capturing the sense a child’s desire to help, the story follows Hank as he tries to problem solve. How will he return the egg when the nest is up so high and he is so little? Hank carefully tends to the egg as he attempts to help. Even when his plans do not work, Hank perseveres and even makes new friends. The book presents a nostalgic feel that really conveys the innocence of the story and the inherent goodness in children (or in this case, bears).

Presented in 55 stop-motion pictures, the artwork is incredible. Rebecca Dudley has created a charming miniature world through delicate textures and various materials—clay, fabrics, wires, papers—and a great sense of lighting. (Notice how the time sequence is presented, as the day turns into night and back to day.) As the book is wordless, the story is relayed solely through the images, and this is done masterfully. My four-year old daughter was able to follow the plot and tell the story with very little assistance from me. This is a wonderful book with beautiful art and a lovely storyline.