Friday, August 11, 2023

ARMANDO'S ISLAND: A Picture Book Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway

From the publisher:

Armando's home is the rainforest—he knows its sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. He even knows its moods. From the bottom of the forest floor to the top of the emergent layer, the trees are also home to a multitude of creatures. When outsiders begin laying claim to and destroying the surrounding landscape, the displaced animals find refuge with Armando in the only remaining pocket of untouched forest, his "island." As people come in and animals are forced out, this poignant tale shows the cumulative and disastrous effects of Amazonian deforestation. (The Creative Company: 2023)


It is always a pleasure to review one of Marsha Diane Arnold's beautifully written picture books. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may remember Badger's Perfect Garden, Mine. Yours., Lights Out, or Galapagos Girl. (if you're new to my blog, check those titles out!). 

Marsha's love for animals, nature, and conserving the environment is present in her newly released book, ARMANDO'S ISLAND. This time, as the book blurb indicated, it's a story about a young boy growing up surrounded by the animals of the Amazon rainforest.  


The book sets the stage with this word picture:

Beneath a canopy of trees, flowing like green ocean, 
in an ancient forest
lived Armando.

and this illustration: 

Marsha describes Armando's life in sensory language:

Walking barefoot, leaves crunching beneath him, 

playing among riverbanks, mud squishing between toes

skipping across fallen logs, grasshoppers jumping, 

climbing liana vines, lizards scrambling beside him

he felt connected to his leafy refuge.

Armando grows, as does his love for the rainforest.

Men and women come to Armando asking him to sell his land. They promise him great wealth in return. Repeatedly, Armando refuses.

"I am rich already," said Armando,

gazing at the emerald green surrounding him.

Each conversation is followed by a scene showing the machinery destroying the rainforest and the animals and birds fleeing to Armando's land.

In the morning, to the east, a great hammering and

sharp drilling 

wailed through the air.

Dolphins stopped swimming.

Otters stopped sliding.

Capybaras stopped bathing.

Hummingbirds left their dance beneath the waterfall

as they fled, to the west, to Armando's. 

The expressions on the animals' faces reflect their emotions as they face their homes destruction.


In the end, 

Now, Armando's home stands crowded and apart,

an island of emerald green, shimmering in the sunlight.

Sometimes the people to the north, south, east, and west

glance at Armando's island, fragile in the mist.

Armando hopes that some morning with the first song of the toucan,

a long-ago memory will come to them...

Anne Yvonne's lush illustrations compliment Marsha's lyrical language and immerse readers into the interconnections of the rainforest's ecosystem. I loved how she even showed the feelings of the animals who are displaced.

Several pages show Armando on one side of the text along with the machinery destroying the forest on the other. 
To read the backstory behind Armando's Island (and how long it took to get this book out into the world!), please see Beth Anderson's blog post.


I picture Armando's Island used in Pre-K through third-grade classrooms. The back matter includes three pages of information and illustrations of animals in the Amazon rainforest. An activity guide will be available on the publisher's website on September 1--just in time for back to school!


CAROL: What was your inspiration for this book? It is so rich with detail—did you go to the Amazon yourself or is this from research?

MARSHA: I wish I could say I traveled to the Amazon, but the book came from research and from my great love of nature and rainforests. 

As I note in my Activity Guide, "There is a difference in knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by knowing information. We may never travel to the Amazon rainforest, so we will not know it by acquaintance. But we can immerse ourselves as much as possible with videos, audios, books, and activities and we may know and appreciate it a little in this way."

I started researching Armando’s Island thirty years ago! At that time, I was involved with a number of conservation organizations, some working to protect the rainforests. Later, I visited Costa Rica and fell in love with the rainforests there. My husband and I built a casita in the rainforest years after that first visit. Macaws, monkeys, and toucans were our neighbors. 

CAROL: How did you get Armando’s name? Is he from a particular tribe?

MARSHA: I have no remembrance of where the name Armando came from. The rhythm of phrases is always important to me and I do think this has a lovely rhythm - Armando’s Island. I suspect I researched names common in Latin America. Armando is a multicultural name. In Latin America, it is associated with strength, courage, and a fierce loyalty to friends. The Armando in my book is certainly all of those.

The name is not from a particular tribe. I wrote the story as a fable, an ode to the rainforest and its animals and those who stand with them. Anne Yvonne did scrupulous research. She deliberately made Armando’s face paint and headdress non-specific, but he is identifiable as an indigenous Brazilian tribesman.

I love that a man named Armando, the only person I know with that name, invited me to join the 2008 Artists in the Back Country group of seven artists, chosen to spend a week in the High Sierras, painting, photographing, and writing. Another natural island. Serendipity?

CAROL: Do you consider this free verse poetry?  (seems so to me!)

MARSHA: I have always thought of it simply as lyrical writing, but free verse poetry sounds very nice to me. Thank you!

CAROL: Were you involved in the choice of the artist? Anne Yvonne is perfect for this book.  What medium does she use?

MARSHA: In a roundabout way you might say I was involved. At the end of Armando’s Island’s thirty-year journey, there were two publishers who offered a contractI knew that The Creative Company published beautiful books and in 2020 they had found the perfect illustrator, Susan Reagan, for my book on light pollution, Lights Out. I trusted them to find another perfect illustrator. They did not let me down. I was thrilled and humbled that someone of Anne Yvonne Gilbert’s caliber would be illustrating my book. She used colored pencils over-layered with sepia drawing ink. So beautiful.

CAROL: Whose idea was it to frame some of the text between an illustration of the machinery and the animals? That is brilliant juxtaposition. 

CAROL: The layouts were Anne Yvonne's ideas, approved by the art director, Rita Marshall. It is indeed a brilliant juxtaposition.

Thank you, Carol, for having me on your blog and for your insightful questions.


To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment along with your email address if you are new to my blog. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, you can shoot me an email instead. If you are a home school educator, teacher, or librarian please let me know. You'll get two chances. The giveaway ends August 15. 


Danielle H. said...

I've seen this beautiful book featured on other blogs and can't wait to read it myself. Thank you for today's post!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Danielle. Your name starts the list.

Linda Trott Dickman said...

This beautiful book calls to mind The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. What a joy to see this! Perfect timing, and I know just who I will share this with!

Thank you so much.
Linda Dickman

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Linda! I’ll add your name to the giveaway.

Sharon McCarthy said...

This book feels like such a joyful and eye-opening experience! I love all stories involving conservation, as this is my passion also. Would love to share with my grandson and students in my K-eighth grade Title 1 program. I am also writing a lyrical story. This would be such an excellent mentor text! Thanks for sharing all your insights. So happy to learn about this book.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sharon. It is a wonderful book. You're in twice since you are an educator!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

The illustrations are gorgeous and I especially love the author's comment regarding how we gain knowledge of a subject. Most of my knowledge has been gained through reading and I've always been grateful to have books to teach me!

Carol Baldwin said...

Connie, you and your granddaughter would love this book!

Unknown said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and leaving such gracious comments. I hope you enjoy ARMANDO'S ISLAND!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Marsha! It was my pleasure to share this beautiful book in every sense of the word.

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