New To The Neighborhood

Moving into a new neighborhood, a new community, can be a bit daunting regardless of your age.  You wonder about the similarities and differences between you and your neighbors.  You are curious to know if they are friendly and supportive or if they prefer to quietly go about their lives in isolation.  It's also safe to say those "Welcome Wagon" days are a thing of the past.

In a companion to Louise Love Art (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 9, 2014) Kelly Light works her own singular, delightful combination of words and images to bring to readers Louise and Andie The Art Of Friendship (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 14, 2016).  Louise's special optimistic brand of looking at life spills forth from the pages of this new story.  She embraces change seeing it as an opportunity.

Art, this is the BEST day ever!
I'm so excited to meet out new neighbor.
I hope she loves art too.

As Louise, her brother Art and their expressive cat approach the new neighbor's house an air of anticipation hangs in the air.  Louise introduces herself, Art and their cat and Andie introduces herself and her dog, Bacon.  Andie seems to be a bit reserved but welcomes them inside her home.

As soon as possible Louise asks Andie if she likes art.  Upon seeing her bedroom decorated with huge paintings, it is clear Andie shares the same passion as Louise.  Within minutes they are both making art together.  They both declare this is the

BEST DAY EVER!

The trouble in this portrait of perfection among new friends is when a question is asked and answered.  The recipient of the reply was not ready for insights from another.  An ensuing tussle results in an artistic disaster and a classic realization.

Both girls are deeply saddened, the one leaving for home and the other wondering what to do.  Kindred in spirit if not in their outlook on art, a new masterpiece takes shape.  Plans for future collaboration will prompt knowing nods in some readers and most assuredly giggles from everyone.


As soon as you read the first three sentences all the joy the characters feel for art and the making of art is conveyed by Kelly Light.  As the story progresses we realize this outlook is not something to be held in solitude but released into the world.  Within short specific conversations, personalities are reinforced and introduced to readers.  When these are paired with the images readers will be able to detect subtle hints at the how the narrative will unfold.


When you first look at the matching dust jacket and book case ask yourself what you see.  What do you notice about the color palette?  What do the expressions on the characters' faces depict?  What does the choice of eyeglass style reveal about their personalities?  What type of medium do they prefer in making their art?  Already similarities and differences are clearly noticeable.

To the left, on the back, the comic relief team is busy.  Along the top hanging from a line with clothes pins are three portraits of Louise, Art and Andie.  Beneath them the cat and Art are watching Bacon create his own particular type of art.  Blue paint is flying in the air and cans of red and yellow are overturned.  The blue used in the jacket and case acts as a canvas on the opening and closing endpapers.  In the corner of each is the window in Louise's home.  In the first the cat is beneath a welcoming hand-drawn picture.  In the second the results of a new relationship are framed in the same window.

Continuing to use every portion of the book to tell her story, Light pictures Art, Louise and the cat peeking out the window of their home at the moving van parked next door on the title page.  Andie and Bacon are on the lawn.  The publication information at the close of the book provides a comical continuation.

Rendered in many black Prismacolor pencils and Photoshop most of the illustrations span two pages except for a critical turning point when Light uses a series of smaller pictures on a single page followed by three horizontal illustrations on the next page. Bright white backgrounds, distinctive use of line and limited color palette have these pictures literally popping off the pages with sheer happiness.

The humor supplied in the cat's expressions of disdain and in the toothy grin on Bacon's face will have readers bursting out in laughter.  Bacon's eagerness is most definitely not shared by the cat.  The ebb and flow of the narrative is skillfully matched in the shift of perspective with page turns.  Careful readers will notice details such as the stacked soup cans on the kitchen counter.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a close-up after Louise and Andie sit down to make art.  All we see are hands and paper.  Louise is leaning over a duck picture she is drawing with a pencil, a sharpener near at hand.  In the opposite corner, lower, right-hand side, Andie is painting with her brush.  Beneath Louise, nearly off the page, Art is drawing with a red crayon.  On that same page Bacon is making an entrance grabbing and pulling on the cat's tale as she exits the top of the right-hand page.  What's not to love about the energy in this picture?!


As charming as the first book with equal amounts of love of art and humor Louise And Andie The Art of Friendship written and illustrated by Kelly Light is sure to be rarely on bookshelves.  The artful, yes artful, mix of Light's words and her illustrations completely surround the reader.  By the time they finish this story, they will be getting out their own art supplies or heading to the nearest store.  All the characters with their unique personalities will find a place in each reader's heart.

To discover more about Kelly Light and her illustrative work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher featured Kelly Light on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read. with the release of her book trailer and a chat.  Kelly Light is a guest at Reading for Research ReFoReMo talking about mentor texts. On June 14, 2016 at All The Wonders, a group of people from the children's literature community got together to celebrate Kelly Light, Louise and the art of friendship with their cheerful artwork.  Kelly Light speaks with teacher librarian Matthew Winner on All The Wonders, Episode 266.  Kelly Light has been a guest at KidLit TV in a series of videos.




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