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Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
January 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers rel­ish­es this chance to catch up with Ann Angel and her multi­gen­er­a­tional Read­ing Team. For this entry, Ann was espe­cial­ly focused on how the words and visu­al art in pic­ture books lead kids to think and to dream. Here’s how Ann describes it:

Long before I had kids and grand­kids, I thought I’d grow up to be a visu­al artist. And, although my art turned to writ­ing, I always, always, ALWAYS loved to share word play and the details of bril­liant illus­tra­tion in pic­ture books with my chil­dren. Now that they’re grown with chil­dren of their own, I catch them perus­ing illus­tra­tions with their kids to find hid­den, sil­ly, or tiny images that tell a sto­ry with­in a sto­ry. These illus­tra­tions help all of us see how artists draw that sto­ry and move it from the words on the page to art that cre­ates sub-plot and deep­er mean­ings. With­out a doubt, the dis­cov­ery helps us to think more deeply about themes, and to dream about the details of our lives.

Many pic­ture books use nuanced art so kids think about sto­ries in ways that lead them to dis­cov­er tech­niques to nego­ti­ate life and to dream about the mag­ic and, some­times, the silli­ness of the world.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child AnnaI was remind­ed of that mag­ic recent­ly when I came across a dusty copy of Wild Wild Sun­flower Child Anna by Nan­cy White Carl­strom (author) and Jer­ry Pinkney (illus­tra­tor).

When my daugh­ter Ste­vi saw the cov­er she com­ment­ed, “I loved that book. It was one of my favorites.” In part, I think she loved the book because she looked a bit like Anna, but most­ly, I think she fell into the botan­i­cal illus­tra­tions and the mag­ic of nature. After all, this was the daugh­ter who tried to keep pet worms in a plas­tic cup in her bed­room. She was also known in our fam­i­ly for play­ing with, and even kiss­ing, frogs and toads while danc­ing through gar­dens and fields.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jer­ry Pinkney from WIld Wild Sun­flower Child Anna, Simon & Schus­ter, 1987, writ­ten by Nan­cy White Carl­strom

That favorite book dis­cov­ery led to an after­noon with both daugh­ters and grand­kids. Daugh­ter Aman­da, a fifth grade teacher with a love of books (and a tal­ent for writ­ing and art her­self), delight­ed in explor­ing illus­tra­tions with nephew Ted­dy and her son and daugh­ter Andrew and Emma.

Ann Angel's family

Ted­dy, Andrew, Aman­da, Emma

Laundry DayAfter read­ing Anna’s gar­den tale, Aman­da pulled out Laun­dry Day, a book by writer/illustrator Jes­sixa Bagley.

(Of course, I joined in the fun with Laun­dry Day, which is our newest favorite.)

In this book, two bored bad­gers, Tic and Tac, help their moth­er hang laun­dry on a line to dry. They turn this into a game to hang the sil­li­est things. I won’t give all the items away but they include a broom, a comb, a pail of water, even a mouse sit­ting in a soup ladle. The images led the grand­kids to iden­ti­fy items they rec­og­nized and to learn about how some items might have been used by their par­ents and grand­par­ents when they were kids.

Laundry Day illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jes­sixa Bagley, from Laun­dry Day, Roar­ing Brook Press, 2017

Vincent Comes HomeAman­da end­ed up read­ing an entire stack of favorites while grand­kids explored the pic­tures. Jessixa’s detailed art was def­i­nite­ly a top new choice.

In one case, because Vin­cent the cat who lives on a car­go ship looks like our grand-cat Finnegan, Aman­da end­ed up pour­ing over details of ships, ports, and cities with Vin­cent Comes Home, co-cre­at­ed by Jes­sixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley.

Wherever You GoAnoth­er favorite is Wher­ev­er You Go, writ­ten by Pat Ziet­low Miller and illus­trat­ed by Eliza Wheel­er.

This delight­ful pic­ture book takes read­ers on a bicy­cle jour­ney with a rab­bit and his com­pan­ion owl through tun­nels, across bridges, into forests, and cities, and dis­tant lands. We learn that we can always return home again. By the way, this book makes a delight­ful high school grad­u­a­tion gift ─ I gave it to my old­est grand­daugh­ter, Beth, who’s study­ing lib­er­al arts in Wash­ing­ton State. (She’s not pic­tured because she’s savor­ing a mel­low Wash­ing­ton cli­mate while we’re sur­viv­ing the cold Mid­west­ern win­ter.)

Ann Angel's family

You can’t keep Ann away from books and her read­ing bud­dies!

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.

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