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  • 2017 Wanda Gág Read Aloud Honor Books


    The Darkest DarkThe Darkest Dark written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, illustrated by The Fan Brothers, and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016.

    This is the tale of how a young boy’s love of planets and space exploration helps him overcome his fear of darkness.  As a child, Chris Hadfield was inspired to pursue his own dreams after observing the Apollo 11 moon landing on television. This experience changed the way Chris perceived the darkness, and inspired him to become an astronaut and later the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (ISS).  

    Themes within this book sparked lots of conversations with children across a wide range of age levels. Younger readers especially related to the theme of bedtime fear of the dark.  The story helped children realize that they too can overcome their fears. Children commented “I loved the colors and pictures in this book,” and “I want this book to win a prize, I really, really liked this book”.   Children were surprised and delighted to learn that the boy in the story really did become an astronaut.

    Chris Hadfield follows up his two previous books on space exploration and the life of an astronaut with this children’s book inspired by his own childhood experiences.  His books give us a remarkable glimpse into the day-to-day world of space exploration.  Hadfield’s extensive career as a pilot and astronaut included over 25 Shuttle missions, work as a NASA Scientist and Engineer, and acting as Commander of the International Space Station.  Co-Author Kate Fillion is a bestselling author and journalist who lives with her family in Toronto.

    Illustrators Terry and Eric Fan have created rich and beautiful images of a young boy wrestling with his fear of the dark, and of our solar system and the astronauts who explore it.  Through the brother’s use of ink and graphite mixed with digital art, the images portray the “darkness” of both settings. (MARILYN LABRENSZ AND LISA STAIGER)

    The Night GardenerThe Night Gardener written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016.

    Grimloch Lane is a gray place until the morning young orphan William awakens to find that a tree on his street has been sculpted into a giant and beautiful owl. Each day a tree in the neighborhood become a cat, then a rabbit, then a parakeet, and finally a dragon.  As a result, this little gray town becomes colorful and full of vitality and life once again. One night William spots the night gardener and receives a wonderful topiary lesson from him. Though the night gardener leaves, the town and William are changed forever.

    Children who listened to this book loved it and expressed lots of “oohs” and “aahs” as they enjoyed the visual discoveries on each new page. The readers stated that this was a unique book with many hidden details. The prediction from children and readers is that this book is destined to become a classic.

    This is the first picture book for brothers Eric and Terry Fan. The drawings are a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using highly textured graphite and deepening digitally colored compositions.  The Fan Brothers received their formal art training at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and currently live in Toronto, Canada. (KATHY VANDER VORST)



     What to Do With a BoxWhat to Do With a Box written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Chris Sheban, and published by Creative Editions, 2016.

    This delightfully simple, poetic salute to the wonders of cardboard boxes is ideally suited to younger readers and evokes fond memories in more mature readers. Beloved author Jane Yolen’s verse stimulates the imagination without the sing-songy quality often found in children’s rhymes. Chris Sheban created the illustrations on real cardboard boxes and incorporated actual postage stamps, warnings, and tears into the story. The end result is a book whose text and illustrations combine to create a “total package” (pun intended).

    When reading this book, children love to share their memories of playing with boxes and develop new ideas for cardboard creativity. While the book may be simple in text and appearance, the possibilities for the imagination are endless!

    Award-winning author Jane Yolen has written over 300 books and lives primarily in Massachusetts, although she also owns a house in Scotland, where she spends time each year. Her books have won numerous awards including a Caldecott Medal for Owl Moon. Chris Sheban lives in Chicago and has won multiple honors from the Society of Illustrators. (AMY SOMA)