Reviews of the 2014 CSK Illustrator Award winners

knock knock Reviews of the 2014 CSK Illustrator Award winnersWinner: Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty; illus. by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown)
Each morning, a little boy looks forward to playing the knock-knock game with his father. The boy pretends to be asleep until his dad approaches. “Then I get up and jump into his arms.” One day, though, and for every day after, the boy’s father fails to appear. The appended author’s note explains that Beaty’s own father was incarcerated. In the book, though, the absence is not explained, which makes it a more universal story of loss. A letter from his father helps shore the boy up. The poignant words “as long as you become your best, the best of me still lives in you” let him know his father loves him, even though he is absent. The text, powerful and spare, is well supported by Collier’s watercolor and collage art, which is filled with repeating motifs: elephants for memory, a paper airplane careening, the father’s hat, rainbows and balloons, children’s eager faces, even the Duke Ellington Memorial to signify the little boy’s dream. Though the boy is bereft of a father, he is cared for and loved. His room is filled with toys and books. His mother and, later on, his wife are there to support him and help him move forward. There is a lot going on here, but there is a lot going on in the mind of any child who has been denied a parent, for whatever reason. In this book they will find comfort and inspiration. ROBIN SMITH

nelson nelson mandela Reviews of the 2014 CSK Illustrator Award winnersHonor: Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson; illus. by the author (HarperCollins/Tegen)
Moving swiftly through crucial moments in Mandela’s life, from childhood tragedy to his outcry against apartheid to his nearly thirty-year imprisonment, release, and eventual presidency, this pictorial biography aptly honors the South African revolutionary. Nelson’s signature large-scale portraits capture both the strength and emotions of his subject — particularly the text-less cover featuring Mandela’s visage with a dignified expression. SHARA L. HARDESON

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