Starred review for WHY is Shelf Awareness

Yay! Another starred review for WHY! This one from Shelf Awareness!!

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Why? by Laura Vaccaro SeegerCaldecott Medal-winner and Geisel Award-honoree Laura Vaccaro Seeger (the Dog and Bear series) tells a sweet and simple tale of friendship between a bear and an enthusiastically curious rabbit in Why?

As young readers turn the pages of this picture book, the seasons slowly change from summer to winter. The rabbit's question, however, remains the same: "Why?" When bear (shown guzzling honey) eats too much or rabbit falls out of the tree (tumbling head over fuzzy tail), rabbit wants to know "Why?" Bear always calmly responds to his friend: "Because it tastes so good" (while holding his belly); "Gravity" (delivered gently, to the windswept rabbit). But when rabbit wants to know why a bird has died, bear doesn't have an answer. " 'I don't know why," bear says sadly, "Sometimes I just don't know why!' " Why? climaxes with the roles of the forest animal friends reversed, leading to a satisfying, touching conclusion.

Seeger's prose is sparse, but the story's impact is vast. Her beautifully detailed watercolor illustrations feature expertly blended soft colors, creating an inviting trek through woodlands--the lush textures of grass, wonderfully puffy clouds and snow make the feel of nature almost palpable. And bear and rabbit each exhibit extensive emotions through subtle, soulful facial expressions. While Seeger's animals may not always know the answer to the age-old question, readers are sure to find plenty of reasons to adore this charming picture book. An excellent option for story time, Seeger's Why?invites audiences of any age to interact with bear and rabbit as well as their rich habitat. Why? It's delightful. "That's why." --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: In this delightful picture book, an unlikely friendship between a bear and a rabbit grows through a year of seasons and a slew of questions.

Starred review for WHY in BookPage

https://bookpage.com/reviews/24211-laura-vaccaro-seeger-why-i-class-fa-fa-star-i-childrens#.XVL0bS2ZOMJ
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Why?
Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Review by Julie Danielson
August 13, 2019

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Channeling the abundant curiosity of a toddler, a rabbit consistently asks questions of his friend, a large and patient bear. The rabbit is of a more philosophical bent, asking “why?” of everything the bear does in this story, told entirely in dialogue.

The illustrations do the heavy lifting in this sparsely worded story, telling us what we need to know about the close bond between the two. Why, the rabbit wonders, must they look through a telescope to see the stars at night? Because they are so far away, the bear responds. The bear is also able to explain why she likes honey, why too much of it makes her ill, why birds fly south for the winter and more.

But when the rabbit sees a fallen bird, the bear is stumped, acknowledging the mysteries and frustrations of loss: “I don’t know why. Sometimes I just don’t know why!” When the bear sadly saunters off, the rabbit begs her to stay, and now it’s the bear’s turn to ask why. The rabbit’s response brings this gentle and graceful story full circle, cementing their friendship and serving as a subtle reminder that grief can be endured with a friend nearby.

This reassuring tale, rendered via watercolors on a lush, green palette, isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions (or in this case, one big question), suggesting that love can persist in the face of loss. Even young readers who have yet to experience loss will find resonance in this quiet story in which answers may not come easy—but steadfastness does.

Julie Danielson conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

WHY? in the LI Herald

http://liherald.com/stories/rockville-centre-residents-new-childrens-book-asks-why,117095

Rockville Centre resident’s new children’s book asks, ‘why?’

LI HERALD - Posted August 8, 2019

Laura Vaccaro Seeger wrote and illustrated “Why?” because “it’s a question I’m always asking, I’m always wondering why things are the way they are,” she said. “Why?” is her 19th book and counting.

By Briana Bonfiglio

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“Why?” is the title and central question of Rockville Centre resident Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s new picture book. 

In it, a rabbit follows a bear and asks “why?” about everything the bear does, such as watering flowers and eating honey. The bear answers almost every question. Seeger’s watercolor illustrations — on a cool, blue-and-green color palette — convey all the action in the book. The delivery is simple, but the message is deep. 

“As adults, we feel like we always have to have all the answers with kids,” Seeger said. “Sometimes we don’t, and that’s OK.”

Each story Seeger writes is an exploration, she said. Her most recent release, “Blue,” for example, follows a boy and dog growing up together. The words only describe the “blues” on the page, such as “true blue,” “sky blue” and “stormy blue,” and the illustrations take care of the rest. 

Seeger has won the Caldecott Award for two of her books, “First the Egg” and “Green.” Before becoming an author, she worked in animation at NBC for almost 10 years. She was a creator and producer at the network, designing animated show openings for “Saturday Night Live,” the “Today” show, “Nightly News” and “Late Night with David Letterman” — to name a few. During this time, she won an Emmy Award for an animated show opening to a NBC special news program.

The exciting career became difficult to manage once Seeger was married and had kids, she said. So she left the 70- to 80-hour workweeks in Manhattan, where she lived at the time, and moved to Rockville Centre with her husband, Chris Seeger, and newborn son, Drew, in late 1991.

A few years later, her second son, Dylan, was born. As she started her new family, she worked on various freelance projects. But, she soon realized her new calling was a passion she had all along.

“I’d been making picture books all my life, since I was younger,” she said. “And as an animator, it felt like a very natural progression to picture book making because it’s basically a storyboard animation with fewer frames.”

Seeger quickly found her editor, Neal Porter, vice president and publisher of Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House Publishing. She published her first picture book, “I Had A Rooster,” in 2001. The book’s text was taken from the lyrics to “I Had A Rooster,” a song in the public domain that was made famous by Seeger’s uncle-in-law, legendary folk singer and environmental activist Pete Seeger, who died in 2014.

Nearly two decades and 20 books later, Seeger said, “there’s no shortage of ideas or things to write about and explore. I never really think about, ‘is this the last one?’ or anything like that.” 

Like her previous books, “Why?” is for both children and adults. When Seeger’s sons were young boys, they read their mother’s books, as well as many others, in the reading room of their Rockville Centre home.

Now, Drew, 28, and Dylan, 24, have a deeper sense of pride for their mother’s work, helping out by looking over the books as Seeger writes them. Seeger dedicated “Why?” to Dylan.

“I recall growing up around her making [books],” Dylan said, “which certainly helped me grow a sense of patience and appreciation for the hard work of the creative process.”

In “Why?” the rabbit can be seen as the child, and the bear can be seen as the adult. The bear answers all the rabbit’s questions — until the end, when they find a dead bird in the snow.

“She has a fascination with perspective that she loves to showcase in her books,” Drew said. “That always resonated with me. Anybody who’s innately inquisitive or familiar with kids could relate to the rabbit’s questing.”

Dylan added, “‘Why?’ is a question that children and adults alike ought to ask more often.”

“Why?” hits bookstands on Aug. 13.

Society of Illustrators - The Big Day

Very excited to be the Chair of the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show this year. Here are some photos from the big day of judging. I’m so proud of all the incredibly hardworking judges this year - Neal Porter, Selina Alko, Jessica Handelman, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Rafael Lopez, Stephen Savage, and Louisa Uribe.

And, of course, my wonderful co-Chair, William Low. (William and I had the easy job today because we don’t get to judge the books!)

Special thanks to the incredible Laurent Linn, Marcia Leonard, and the wonderful Society of Illustrators staff for a most enjoyable day.

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ALA Fun in Washington DC

It’s always so much fun and so inspiring to be at ALA, and this year was no different. Here are a few photos from a great weekend at ALA in Washington DC…

with Yuyi Morales

with Yuyi Morales

with Neal Porter

with Neal Porter

with Matthew Cordell and Bina Williams

with Matthew Cordell and Bina Williams

and… happy birthday, Neal Porter!

and… happy birthday, Neal Porter!

Fabulous Book Expo 2019 in NYC

It’s always a wonderful time at BEA, and everyone at Holiday House made it even more special with a super fun breakfast party at their downtown offices, followed by a seriously long book signing line for WHY at the Javits Center.

A whole bunch of us authors in the amazing Holiday House library

A whole bunch of us authors in the amazing Holiday House library

Pictured: Stephen Savage, Neal Porter, me, Jason Chin

Pictured: Stephen Savage, Neal Porter, me, Jason Chin

Pictured: Jerry Pinkney, me, Sandra Jordan, Roxie Monro

Pictured: Jerry Pinkney, me, Sandra Jordan, Roxie Monro

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MR. BRIAN’S PICTURE BOOK PICKS

MR. BRIAN’S PICTURE BOOK PICKS

Picture book of the day: Why?–because Laura Vaccaro Seeger creates another poignant, thoughtful book

Why?, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823441730, ARC reviewed, to be released: August 13, 2019

Anyone who has hung out with an inquisitive child will recognize and relate to this book’s scenario: a little rabbit (a stand-in for the child reader) keeps asking the bear “why?” about various situations. And yet Laura Vaccaro Seeger, the gifted two-time Caldecott honor winner, takes the seemingly simple situation and adds a poignant spin to it that elevates the work to another level. Although warm, her lovely watercolors never feel saccharine or cutesy. The animals emerge as pensive, soulful creatures, never cloying. Seeger makes them appear realistic even when engaging in anthropomorphic behavior (like looking through a telescope). I love Seeger’s approach to her topic. We don’t get the rabbit’s full question, only a “why?”. The bear’s responses help fill in the blanks, as do Seeger’s evocative illustrations. The questions start off as relatively breezy with the bunny wondering why bear waters flowers or why bear enjoys honey. But they grow in intensity, laced with a sense of melancholy. Soon rabbit bombards bear with a bunch of questions, and bear, when posed with a question about a dead bird, finally has to admit that they don’t have all the answers. It’s a surprising gut punch, a moment of vulnerability on the bear’s part. Sometimes elders don’t have all the answers. Seeger turns the situation around during the book’s final moments with the rabbit saying something that prompts the bear to ask “why?”. Although snow falls from the sky, the warmth of their friendship shines through. The final image is haunting and beautiful.

Booklist - Starred review for WHY

WHY?    BOOKLIST – May 15, 2019 (starred review)    By Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Illus. by the author Aug. 2019. 32p. Holiday, $18.99 (9780823441730); e-book, $11.99 (9780823442935). PreS–K   One of Seeger's great talents is distilling a child's concerns to their essence. Here the stand-in for the child is a sweet white rabbit who can be frisky and contemplative by turns, but what she does most consistently is ask the one-word question of the title. A shaggy brown bear with a remarkably expressive face is helpfully there to answer. What Rabbit is questioning never needs to be spelled out, because it is so simply depicted in the lovely, focused watercolor illustrations. As he waters flowers, Bear responds to the "why?" by saying, "Because flowers need water to grow." As Bear guzzles pots of honey, the reason is because it tastes good. And when he's lying against a rock, holding his stomach, it's because he "ate too much." But for some things, there are no answers. Rabbit spies a robin dead in the snow, and a sad Bear can only say, "Sometimes I don't know why." This celebration of friendship, which Seeger moves seamlessly through the seasons, gives children the opportunity to intuit that, while things change, there is also stability in love and relationships. A poignant ending reiterates that bond, which will be touching for children who like to ask plenty of questions and for the adults on whose laps they sit.

WHY?

BOOKLIST – May 15, 2019 (starred review)

By Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Illus. by the author Aug. 2019. 32p. Holiday, $18.99 (9780823441730); e-book, $11.99 (9780823442935). PreS–K

One of Seeger's great talents is distilling a child's concerns to their essence. Here the stand-in for the child is a sweet white rabbit who can be frisky and contemplative by turns, but what she does most consistently is ask the one-word question of the title. A shaggy brown bear with a remarkably expressive face is helpfully there to answer. What Rabbit is questioning never needs to be spelled out, because it is so simply depicted in the lovely, focused watercolor illustrations. As he waters flowers, Bear responds to the "why?" by saying, "Because flowers need water to grow." As Bear guzzles pots of honey, the reason is because it tastes good. And when he's lying against a rock, holding his stomach, it's because he "ate too much." But for some things, there are no answers. Rabbit spies a robin dead in the snow, and a sad Bear can only say, "Sometimes I don't know why." This celebration of friendship, which Seeger moves seamlessly through the seasons, gives children the opportunity to intuit that, while things change, there is also stability in love and relationships. A poignant ending reiterates that bond, which will be touching for children who like to ask plenty of questions and for the adults on whose laps they sit.

Kirkus - starred review for WHY

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WHY?
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger ; illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Age Range: 4 - 8

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KIRKUS REVIEW - starred review

A patient bear deftly answers most of a childlike rabbit’s many “whys.”

As the two friends perch with a telescope beneath a starry sky, the rabbit’s “Why?” garners a contextual answer: “Because they are very far away.” When the bear guzzles honey from three large jars, the inevitable query is met with “Because it tastes so good.” The turn of the page reveals a reclining, lethargic bear. “Why?” “Because I ate too much.” Seeger’s patterned text invites readers to tease out what the friends’ spare conversation leaves unsaid, scanning for clues among the pictures. Comic moments derive from the bear’s succinct responses: The rabbit, buffeted while hanging from a branch (“Wind…”), falls into the bear’s arms (“Gravity”). Seeger’s watercolors capture seasonal changes as nature’s greens yield to falling leaves and flurrying snow. When the rabbit contemplates a dead cardinal, vivid red against the snow, the bear, eyes conveying emotion, says, “I don’t know why. Sometimes I just don’t know why!” As the bear moves toward a beckoning cave, the rabbit begs the bear to stay—and it’s the bear’s turn to ask “Why?” A final scene shows the slumbering bear, the rabbit gazing from above, as snow falls. There are poignant echoes of Margaret Wise Brown’s The Dead Bird and Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman here.

Not all questions can be answered, but the communion of friendship lights much of life’s path. (Picture book. 4-8)

Amazing American School, Dubai!

What an incredible experience - sixteen days in Dubai, visiting the American School and speaking with librarians, teachers, and hundreds of children.

I was honored to spend time with the inspiring William Kamkwamba, and I am incredibly grateful to Natasha Pollock, Jason Roach, Julie Jones, Jennifer Baltes, Mara Ziemelis, and everyone at the American School for making my visit so memorable.

Here are just a few photos from this amazing trip:

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SCBWI Gala 2019

Such an honor to be a judge of the Golden Kite award this year, along with Wendell Minor and LeUyen Pham. Congratulations to all of this year’s SCBWI winners!

So inspiring to hear Sonia Sotomayor speak!

So inspiring to hear Sonia Sotomayor speak!

Pictured: Wendell Minor, me, James Ransome, Laurent Linn

Pictured: Wendell Minor, me, James Ransome, Laurent Linn

Society of Illustrators 2018 READING PICTURES

2018 READING PICTURES: The Artist’s Voice and Vocabulary in Picture Books

What a unique and utterly fun event! I was thrilled to see so many familiar faces and meet some new friends, too. And of course, what a treat to share the stage with the fabulous Susan Roth and John Parra. Much thanks to Cecilia Yung, Laurent Lynn, and Isabelle Warren Lynch for organizing an amazing event!

pictured: Susan Roth, Isabelle Warren Lynch, Laurent Linn, Cecilia Yung, John Parra, and me.

pictured: Susan Roth, Isabelle Warren Lynch, Laurent Linn, Cecilia Yung, John Parra, and me.

Blue tongues abound!

Blue tongues abound!

(Click here for link to the Society of Illustrators website.)

Below is a description of the event:

Monday, November 12, 2018
1:00 pm to 8:00 pm 
at the Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the annual Original Art exhibit, featuring the very best illustration in books for children this year.

Art directors Laurent Linn (Simon & Schuster), Isabelle Warren Lynch (Random House Children’s Books) and Cecilia Yung (Penguin Books for Young Readers) will lead a gallery talk of this spectacular show for an up-close examination of the works on view.

Illustrators Susan RothJohn Parra and Laura Vaccaro Seeger will share their behind-the-scenes decisions and discuss and/or demonstrate their creative processes in the intimate gallery setting of the Society of Illustrators.

The day will conclude with a book signing and an opportunity to chat with your colleagues, the illustrators, and the art directors over a delicious buffet dinner.

BLUE in the New York Times

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(Click here for full article.)

Picks of the Litter: Dog Picture Book for Every Child — and Grown-Up
If the state of the world or anything else is putting you in need of a good cry, I recommend Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s BLUE (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 3 to 8). It’s another book that uses only two words on each page. This time the phrases all include the word blue — “chilly blue,” “true blue” — the better to show off Seeger’s thick, brushy art and die-cut holes, which are reminiscent of her Caldecott Honor-winning “Green.” Seeger walks you through the life span of a good dog belonging to a little boy who grows to be a man just as the dog passes into the great beyond. (It’s a tip of the hat, perhaps, to the folk song “Old Blue.”) The ending made both me and my husband cry. Our 8-year-old son seemed unmoved, but that may be because his first dog is still young. Still, his reaction tugged at my heart, making me realize that some day, he’ll come back to the book with sadder, wiser eyes. Tempus fugit, but especially, it seems, when you love a dog.

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BLUE in Horn Book's Calling Caldecott

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Blue

NOVEMBER 7, 2018 BY REBEKAH DUTKIEWICZ 

Texture and depth pulled me into Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Blue, and texture and depth are what carried me through (and then back to the beginning, and then through again). Picking it up for the first time, my immediate instinct was to manipulate the book — to feel its weight, to run my fingers over the jacket — and this impulse was rewarded. The title is raised, providing lovely tactile feedback and inviting readers to consider the many layers and facets of a title that, on the surface, seems straightforward enough. And indeed, Blue is multidimensional. It is the companion book to Green, Seeger’s 2013 book for which she earned a Caldecott Honor, and although the two share many similarities, Green speaks to the natural world; Blue speaks to the heart.

Blue is often a conversation in contrasts, and this is evident as soon as the book is opened to reveal the endpapers and title page. The cover art is dark and dramatic with swirls of cerulean suggesting a dog’s paw print. The title page is an exhale — variations of sky blue textured behind a bold title. It is a place to pause before we keep looking for answers. The two experiences — the cover art and the title page — announce, ostensibly, the same information, but they feel so, so different, and this is the magic of Blue. From the very beginning, we are invited to examine the ways in which color and its varying degrees (and the relationships between those degrees) can serve as evocation. Seeger’s text is spare and simple, but, paired with her redolent acrylic on canvas, it is plenty to make us feel something that’s been stirred up from deep within. 

As in Green, Blue ingeniously employs die cuts and allows them to function as a tool to move the visual narrative forward (then backward, then forward again). On the verso, a blue dog bone, after a page-turn, becomes a blueberry; leaves from the blueberry bush serve to illustrate an unfortunate series of paw prints; smeared paint gets lost in the sapphire mosaic of a butterfly’s wing. I found myself flipping back and forth between pages, engaging with Seeger’s impeccable ability to make artistic elements that are integral to one page’s narrative become at once completely lost and completely necessary for the book’s next step. Similarly, die cuts on the recto help readers anticipate what might be coming. A slight hint at a page-turn, a tiny lift of a smooth, thick page, enlivens the die cut and pulls us forward: where is this smear of color, the one lending itself to this ocean-side beach ball, coming from? What will it be? And will it still be the thing before? The magic and drama of the page-turn are not lost here. Not even a little.

Although this is a book about a boy and his dog, each double-page spread is a vignette that, for all intents and purposes, can stand on its own. I found myself lingering on the “stormy blue” spread, full of tones so deep I had to adjust my light. Splatters of paint suggest droplets on a window pane, separating me from the page and defining my role as onlooker, intruder. What was I witnessing? What brought this boy and this dog out into the woods on such a stormy night? Were they lost? Are they reuniting? Where are they going next? There is so much to pull from each of these vignettes. Again, what drew me in is what carried me through. Blue‘s beautiful texture and depth cannot be overstated. Seeger’s deliberate brush strokes, velvety and supple, paired with her use of tonal variation, often implored me to touch the pages, searching for tactile feedback similar to what I received from the book’s jacket, feedback that might match my emotional response.

And all this without any mention of the book’s narrative arc, which, if you’re anything like me, will leave you weeping, despite heavy-handed foreshadowing. The seasons of life — both literal and otherwise — are strong players here, and although the title does deliver (we are certainly taken there, to that blue, blue place), Seeger’s lush artwork and clever use of design elements invite us to explore what this color can mean to all of us at different times and in different stages of our lives.

[Read the Horn Book Magazine review of Blue here.]