Tag Archives: Jon Brokenbrow

A Very, Very Noisy Tractor by Mar Pavón, illustrated by Nívola Uyá, translated by Jon Brokenbrow

Very, Very Noisy TractorAn unnamed lady with “an enormous beehive hairdo” – in glorious auburn, no less! – chugs down the road … on a tractor. The “colossal” noise the tractor makes allows her to ignore the pizza delivery boy who yells, “‘Ladies with crazy hairdos shouldn’t drive tractors!’” She chugs along, passing an old woman who thinks the lovely redhead’s eyeglasses are a hindrance to driving, a postman who objects to her blue raincoat, a builder who finds fault with her rubber boots. Sheesh! Everyone’s got an unasked-for opinion!

The one person she can hear is a little boy full of questions – because “the sound of a little boy or little girl yelling is just  … deafening!” She patiently addresses his open curiosity, and explains she must be on her way because her husband has a delicious dinner waiting at home. When her young daughter declares during their festive meal that she, too, intends to be a tractor-driving farmer just like her adventurous mother, she offers the very best advice: “‘make sure that your tractor is very, very noisy – so noisy that you can’t hear the silly things people shout at you.’”

Author Mar Pavón’s comically entertaining story provides serious inspiration to dream big (and loudly!) and listen to your own inner compass rather than the absurd chatter too many others are too willing to blather. Artist Nívola Uyá’s outrageously energetic illustrations can hardly keep our boot-kickin’ hero on the page as she thunderously tractors on home to the great loves of her life: “… everyone knows, you don’t hear the sounds of love with your ears, but with your heart.” That’s a simple truth we can all believe in!

Readers: Children

Published: 2013 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, European

The Magic Ball of Wool by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Nora Hilb, translated by Jon Brokenbrow

Magic Ball of WoolIn my crotchety old age, sleep is a major challenge, so I usually end up taking a pile of must-reads to bed. In spite of the lack of zzzzs, my stacks aren’t exactly shrinking, but how grateful am I to never be without bookish company in the wee hours.

Sometimes, I get oh so lucky on these seemingly neverending nights and I discover a title that’s Magic which gently sends me off to slumberland. From the inspiring Spanish publisher, Cuento de Luz, comes another soothing, hopeful story about a hedgehog who wakes one morning with a ball of wool stuck to his prickles. Once he shakes it off, a spider teaches him to knit. The hedgehog proves quite facile, and soon enough, neighboring friends drop by and ask if he might make them a little something. Whatever the hedgehog knits transforms into the recipients’ most fervent wish. The mouse’s tiny sweater becomes a giant ball of cheese, the frog’s mittens becomes a mirror (she’s self-admittedly a bit vain), the bear’s balaclava (love that word!) becomes a shell with lulling sounds of the sea …

By the time the crab arrives many requests later, the hedgehog realizes he has only a tiny piece of magic wool left. But the crab has come a very long way in search of a very long, strong rope to pull a huge blue whale – dangerously beached – back into the ocean. While the hedgehog thinks through the sleepless night (sound familiar?), all the forest animals return their precious wish-fulfilled objects to the hedgehog’s door. Happily surprised, he unravels the gifts. With the magic ball reattached to his prickles, he “hiked through three forests and climbed two mountains, until he came to the sea and found the blue whale sobbing on the sand.” And knit he did …

The hedgehog selflessly creates, the other animals take and enjoy, but they so willingly know when to give back. A whole community rallies to save a single distressed soul. How can you not love a story like that?

Why are some of us deficient in that sort of giving which is so transforming for both the giver and taker? Today of all days seems a good day to just help without expecting payback, to do good without thinking how or why … and tomorrow we can do the same, and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on. We can all make magic indeed.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, European

The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer, translated by Jon Brokenbrow

Admiring Ana A. de Eulate’s The Sky of Afghanistan earlier this fall led me to Sonja Wimmer‘s spectacular art. Allow me a moment of WOW. I admit that finding only Wimmer’s name on the cover of this title was the initial reason I opened these pages, and how gleeful was I to discover that she’s incredibly facile with storytelling, as well … The Word Collector is perfect in so many ways.

“Luna was an extraordinary little girl,” the tale begins. Luna collects words: “funny words, that tickle your palate when you say them … friendly words that embrace your soul.” She’s surrounded by magical, delicious, crazy words … but “[l]ittle by little, the beautiful, magnificent and fun words began to disappear.”

The bird, clouds and travelers tell Luna how people are forgetting the words, losing them to non-use, considering themselves “too busy.” Luna devises an immediate plan that takes her “over seas and continents, mountains and cities,” armed with a suitcase filled with all her words: “Wherever there was hate and violence, she sowed words of brotherhood, love and tolerance within people’s hearts. Wherever there were people who were sad and lonely, she wove threads of warm words, words of friendship and compassion.”

Luna’s suitcase empties quickly. Her hard work proves joyously rewarding as she sees the people “throw letters to each other like balls” and invent new words, and give and share them. Luna is happy: “[a]fter all, what was the point of collecting something if you couldn’t share them?”

Wimmer’s story jumps off every double-page spread, each presented with swirling energy and unique perspective. Luna’s expressive kitty makes for an excellent sidekick, magical creatures float across the page, the too-busy people move from pulling hair and dumping soup to floating off with umbrellas and twirling with blissful abandon. To such whimsical images, Wimmer adds ever-changing text set in countless fonts and multiple sizes (and just in case you can’t find every word in exact order, the final spread is a type-only version of the whole story).

Remember that stinging childhood rhyme: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’? Rethink that: here’s proof of the power of words to heal, fix, enjoy, and share with others.

Readers: Children

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, European, Nonethnic-specific

The Sky of Afghanistan by Ana A. de Eulate, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, translated by Jon Brokenbrow

“I look at the sky, I close my eyes, / and my imagination begins to soar …,” so begins this beautiful, but bittersweet picture book – bittersweet because for now, the little girl can only imagine, dream, wish for peace in her war-torn country of Afghanistan. For decades, her country has been decimated by violence, which means this little girl (and her entire generation and more) can only know peace in her sky-high dreams.

That said, buying this book is an immediately doable easy step towards peace because author Ana A. de Eulate and illustrator Sonja Wimmer are donating all proceeds to Fundacíon Cometa, a Spain-based organization that promotes educational projects, especially as a means “to empower women to be the vehicles that convey those egalitarian values of respect and human rights to their children.” Women and girls will be the ones to break the cycle of violence and war.

To move from dreams to making a new reality, never underestimate the power of a determined little girl. She dreams of a time when “the sound of war has truly gone forever.” Surely that must be a birthright for all children? Her unwavering convictions are testimony that she “can make this dream come true, / a wonderful  dream in which we all hold hands, / and we are all given a new opportunity / to leave our footprints for all eternity.” How impossible not to be touched by the book’s final thought, the longing for “A place – please forgive me if my eyes fill with / tears – that leads us towards PEACE.”

But before you close the book, go back and linger over the pictures. Beyond de Eulate’s inspiring words, Wimmer’s illustrations – from the smallest details to swirling, sweeping scenes — surely add volumes: a caged dove flying to freedom; the children’s various smiles, from the uncertain to the bursting; the women’s heavy blue burqas drawn over grid paper as if to show them to be the cages they are, and the daring few who momentary lift their veils to witness the little girl being lifted up (and away) by her high-flying kite before she, too, is caged; the (vibrantly colorful) intricate toys as the little girl plays on top of (dingy monotone) garbage and rubble, the bright lily bursting forth larger than life from a shrinking tank’s gun, the young girls at their desks with books and pencils in hand, various pieces of Afghan maps as if waiting to be reassembled back together, the cancelled Afghan stamps as reminders of the need for communication near and far.

Go ahead, enter this dreamy world … then help make it reality.

Readers: Children

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, Afghan, European