Arlo's Book Club: Fresh Pickings for Spring

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Brand new books are blooming all around, and we are excited to present you with another edition of ARLO’S BOOK CLUB! This time around, we are looking at fresh pickings for Spring, and focusing on character. Character is perhaps the most important element in children’s storytelling. It teaches kids about the world and people around them, how to make good decisions and how to be brave and silly. We picked a few books that exemplify how creating a great character can really take the reader soaring. Take a look, and happy reading!

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TRIANGLE
by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
The newest collaboration from MAC BARNETT and our own Red Cap artist, JON KLASSEN, is about a mischievous little triangle and the lengths he’ll go for a laugh. We also meet his foil, a Square, who teaches kids a valuable lesson about going with the flow. Of course, we’re in love with the illustration–classic Klassen, conveying depth and expression with darker, shaded colors, plus a few pops of icy blue that refreshes the page. Pick this one up right away!

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DU IZ TAK?
by Carson Ellis
We could go on and on about the merits of Du Is Tak? by CARSON ELLIS. The story is centered on a group of insects who live in a colorful and intricate outdoor world. The real character in this book, however, is the language. The little bugs speak no human language, and we as the reader are tasked with using the illustration to decode their speech, like a child might learn to decode ours. By the end of the story, we are fluent in their language. A brilliant, fantastical story.

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ANTOINETTE (GASTON & FRIENDS)
by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson
It’s finally here! The “sequel” to GASTON by Kelly DiPucchio and Red Cap Cards artist, CHRISTIAN ROBINSON, is entitled Antoinette, and tells the story of Gaston’s future spouse and her quest to find herself. We get to see more of the city of Paris (fun!) and follow Antoinette as she finds out that everyone has a talent, and that hers is very important. We’re so glad to see these sweet faces again.

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NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST
by Margaret Wise Brown with illustration by Greg Pizzoli
It’s difficult for Margaret Wise Brown to do wrong in our eyes, and we were delighted to see that her story was recently refreshed and reprinted with illustration by our pal, GREG PIZZOLI. North, South, East, West tells the story of a sweet little bird who leaves the nest for adventure and then finds her way back home. This one is for anyone with a wandering soul.

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MY DAD USED TO BE SO COOL
by Keith Negley
A little boy is suspicious that his dad used to be cool. How do we know? We get a glimpse of a few hints: a motorcycle collecting leaves in the driveway, a drum kit hidden away in the closet, sleeve tattoos and loud music. Bursting with color and sweet-as-can-be, this story allows the reader in on a secret that little boy never does figure out: that his dad used to be “cool” but would give it all up for love. We adore this one from author/illustrator, KEITH NEGLEY.

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Children's Book Illustration Technique, Part One: It's In the Eyes | Jon Klassen

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. We say they are the window to the story. Part of our jobs as art curators is finding personality and perspective in our artists’ characters. A huge chunk of that personality and perspective is found in the character’s gaze. The intricacies with which artists are able to convey emotion and intent through slight subtlety in their character’s features is fascinating!

Part of what makes a successful picture book is a 50/50 partnership between words and illustration. Words tell half of the story, while the illustration tells the other half. Sometimes, these halves conflict in their truths…and that’s when things get really exciting! When you start to focus on these tiny details in a picture book’s illustration, it’s amazing what layers you can find.

It’s no secret that we are huge JON KLASSEN fans. Celebrated author, illustrator and Caldecott award winner (not to mention Red Cap Cards artist), Jon is a master at creating tension and story arcs with very subtle details in his art work. Look below for some fascinating examples from several of his books.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT
by Jon Klassen

This one tells the story of a tiny, mischievous fish who has stolen a hat (quite stupidly) from a much bigger fish. He is sly and aware of his surroundings until he gets a little bit too comfortable. We love the facial expressions on both fish (and a few other characters) as the story emerges, showing complex emotions in a battle of wits.

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I WANT MY HAT BACK
by Jon Klassen

In this story, a much-too-trusting bear goes on the hunt for his missing hat, until he ultimately finds it, much to the dismay of the thief. The range of emotion in this one is perfect! Trust to deception, realization, intent, surprise, and ultimately, satisfaction. The illustration is able to stand completely alone in its story.

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SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE
Words by Mac Barnett, illustration by Jon Klassen

This one is magical and has new layers that are discoverable with each reading. Sam and Dave do simply that–they dig a hole. Their trusty dog is there to attempt to steer them in the right direction, but ultimately, they wrap up the day’s work and head home…or do they? The very subtle inconsistencies in the two home settings create a story within a story. The look between the cat and the dog tells us there’s more to this narrative that we are invited to put together on our own after the book is closed.

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WE FOUND A HAT
by Jon Klassen

Jon’s newest addition to the “hat” trilogy tells the story of two turtles in a desert who have found a hat. Who will claim the hat? They both like it, and it looks good on them both. The internal struggle of one of the turtles is hidden from the text, but is given away in the eyes of the character illustration. See the images below:

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How many characters are completely recognizable by their eyes? We wanted to touch on Jon’s characters to get you on the lookout–who are your favorite characters with stories told through their expressions? We will be back with some more illustrative techniques for telling a complete story through illustration. Keep your eyes peeled!

5 Books for Kids on Kindness

For Red Cap Cards..

We know it has been a difficult week for some of us. In times like this, we look around and wonder how we got here. However, here at Red Cap, we choose to meditate on the love, kindness, and beauty that we know resides in our great nation. In times like this, let’s look to our littlest truth-tellers and find a way to guide them to the values that we hold dear. We picked a few books out that showcase what it means to live in kindness and in service to others. Enjoy.

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
by Justin Roberts, with pictures by Red Cap artist, Christian Robinson

A beautiful, poetic story about a very small girl in the smallest grade. This one has a wonderful message, about standing up for what’s right–Love!–even when you feel very small. “Sally notices everything—from the twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring to the bullying happening on the playground. One day, Sally has had enough and decides to make herself heard. And when she takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.”

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead with pictures by Erin E. Stead

“And in the end, the love you take Is equal to the love you make.” This Caldecott medal-winning picture book tells the story of Amos, a zookeeper, who gives extra-special attention to all of his animals each and every day. When he becomes sick, the animals return the favor by visiting him at home. It is a lovely example in the lesson of love and care for your fellow friends.

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The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein

It’s rare that someone hasn’t read The Giving Tree, but some still miss the underlying message. In the story, a tree loves a boy so much that she gives him everything of herself until she is a lowly stump. We learn from the tree that giving and generosity equals happiness, regardless of outcome. Kindness is, in and of itself, happiness.

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Jane, the Fox & Me
by Fanny Britt, with illustration by Isabelle Arsenault

Translated from French, Jane, the Fox & Me is a poignant and beautiful graphic novel. This should be required reading for middle school-aged girls, and teaches a valuable lesson about understanding differences, having compassion, and fostering friendship.

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Horrible Bear
by Ame Dyckman with pictures by Zachariah O’Hora

Who is really the horrible one in the situation–the girl or the bear? And who will say sorry first? This is a great story (with awesome illustration by Zachariah O’Hora) about seeing your opponent’s side with compassion and coming together on common ground. A lovely lesson for every age group.

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Much love and kindness to all…