Every summer and fall my Dad would take me fishing; not so much to see what we could catch but to be out on the lake or the river enjoying the sights and sounds. Each fall we would go bow hunting (me with a camera only), not once ever bringing anything home except knowledge learned about animals, trees and plants courtesy of my Dad. I came away from all these adventures knowing more about the world in which I live and having some wonderful tales to tell.
Nicola Davies with illustrations by Mark Hearld is a narrative and pictorial marvel for all ages.
A series of lyrical observations have been penned for each of the four seasons. There are free verse poems, poems with words that rhyme and even a new twist on a nursery chant. Sometimes a numbered list will appear; for chickens or dens.
Recipes follow poems, so do secrets of savings seeds and even a way to help our feathered friends weather the winter. There is breathtaking, singular beauty captured by words within these pages; musings about water in all its forms, the flight of gulls, songs we hear in summer, ponds and tide pools, night, stars, wind and more. Nicola Davies uses language like eyes noticing the simple, elevating it in all its majesty.
Here are some lines taken from poems in each of the seasons.
... Inside its brown coat and layers like an onion,
a tiny pulse beats,
counting out the days like a calendar,
so the bulb knows winter's almost gone...
The breeze shivers through the barley,
and the sea sighs.
Far away an owl is calling
and a star shines. ...
Fresh from the tree
the apple sits in your hand,
cool and round,
and streaked with sunset colors.
... They look like smoke, or a curtain rippling in the breeze.
Every turn and swoop they make together--
as if their flying is a dance that they all know by heart. ...
When removing the book's dust jacket readers are greeted with a different color scheme; rather than the cool blues and greens of the jacket, the book case is in warm rusts and golds with circular visuals centered, picturing a closeup of a mouse and a frog. Endpapers are done in a patterned, steely, blue-gray. (Interestingly enough if you go to Nicola Davies's website linked above you will see that two covers (jackets) were made for this book; one for the United States and one for the United Kingdom.)
Mark Hearld employs mixed media to form what can only be described as stunning pictures. He is a talented painter, lineoleum block printer and enjoys collecting items, patterned papers, to include in his works of collage. Printed on soft, heavy paper stock readers are treated to two page spreads usually highlighting a single poem.
His eye for color, composition, attention to detail and perspective is truly gifted. These magical, mesmerizing portrayals of the everyday are a call for us to be aware, to notice the little things. Under each season if I could frame a single visual (not that any are not worthy), I would frame the illustration for Spring, Flowers and Honey, Harvest and Deer In The Dawn.
Not just a first look at our outside world for children but a work of art, Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature written by Nicola Davies with pictures by Mark Hearld is a must read. It is 109 pages of pure pleasure to be enjoyed at a single sitting, savored by the seasons or one poem at a time. There are two different links to the work of Mark Hearld embedded in his names above. Enjoy the video below of his process and art.
UPDATE: This video was added in March 2016.