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Thursday, June 30, 2011

BookNook Highlights: Helen Ward & Wayne Anderson

Today I'd like to depart from my typical review structure to highlight the imaginative children's bookmaking duo of author Helen Ward and artist Wayne Anderson. The two have worked together on a handful of children's titles, three of which are the focus of today's post. Their books feature strong, familiar, and worthwhile messages told through bizarre images and lyrical, simple writing. I'm very much engaged by Wayne Anderson's work, and find the delicate softness of his illustrations in perfect compliment to their strangeness. Weird and lovely at the same time, his worlds are truly his own.

Words that come to mind when reading these books might be dreamy, strange, otherwordly, whimsical, elegant, and ethereal. If those adjectives intrigue you, than read on for more about The Tin Forest, Little Moon Dog, and The Dragon Machine.

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The Tin Forest
Written by Helen Ward
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dutton (2005)
ISBN-13: 978-0142403648
 

STORY
An old man lives alone in a small house surrounded by unwanted junk and discarded trash. By day, he spends his time cleaning, tidying, and organizing this ugly garbage heap, and by night he dreams of beautiful tropical forests. One day he gets an idea to build his own forest out of the resources around him. With a lot of hard work and a bit of wishing, he gets more than he dreamed of.
 
A positive message about the power of perusing your dreams and the good that can come when you work to make them a reality. No matter your circumstances, with enough dedication and heart you can transform your life and the world around you. A powerful and inspiring allegory great for children and adults alike.


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Little Moon Dog
Written by Helen Ward
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dutton (2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0142403648
 

The Man in the Moon and his little dog live peacefully alone but for once a year, when they must contend with tourists to their home land--a tour bus full to the brim with mischievous fairies.  While the Man in the Moon prefers to shut himself in for the duration of their visit,  Little Moon Dog sees the fairies as exciting new playful companions.  Mistaking their willingness to play for genuine friendship, Little Moon Dog easily joins his new "friends" when they depart the moon for a nearby planet. The Man in the Moon finds himself alone and missing his furry friend, who only too soon realizes the true meaning of friendship and the value of home.

Though at times the writing can get a bit heavy handed, its message of appreciating your true friends is strong as ever and told in a strange new way.

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The Dragon Machine
Written by Helen Ward
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dutton (2003)
ISBN-13: 978-0142403648
 

STORY 
Lonely George seems to be the only one who notices when dragons begin appearing in places they shouldn't. Ignored and overlooked by everyone around him, George decides to deal with the issue on his own, and builds and pilots a flying machine shaped like a dragon and leads them all back from whence they came. During his trip, his parents finally discover George has gone missing, and set out to find him and bring him home.

ILLUSTRATIONS
The images provide an additional layer of meaning than the words alone. We never see George's parents--nor much of any other adults around George, which emphasizes the sense of isolation and disconnect he has to others. The soft, dull color palette used for George compared to the world around him makes him appear to sink into the background, undervalued and unappreciated.  And we come to understand that the dragons are manifestations of his imagination and desire to be noticed; his journey to bring them home to where they belong is in essence an elaborate way to run away from home.  The message at the end is universal: everyone wants to be valued and feel loved.



  

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