Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Where Am I?

It is a bright, sunny day in the early autumn.  Ferns and maple, oak, ash and birch leaves are wearing their seasonal colors.  As you walk along the path, your eye catches something unique farther into the woods.  You decide to keep the route most traveled in sight as you seek to get a closer look.

When you finally arrive at the spot, seconds vanish turning into minutes as you marvel at your discovery.  Looking up and around you realize nothing is familiar.  The track seems to have disappeared.  With a sinking feeling you realize you are lost.

How quickly we can become distracted from one goal by another.  If you are a dog, despite numerous hours of training, the chitter-chatter of a squirrel is too tempting to resist.  Charmed as we all were with her canine antics in A Ball for Daisy, the lovable pup is even more endearing in the companion book titled Daisy Gets Lost (Schwartz & Wade Books) written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist, Chris Raschka.

Using a similar limited color palette of red, blue, and yellow with black, gray and brown, Chris Raschka adds in hues of green for Daisy's newest adventure in this nearly wordless book.  The jacket and cover offer an introduction to the setting as well as reacquainting readers with the contagious exhilaration of Daisy.  Her full body illustration on the title page looking directly at the reader is an open invitation.

The two-page picture spread across the verso and first page provides us with a close-up of an excited running Daisy, tongue hanging out, sheer happiness evident in every brush stroke.  We get the merest glimpse of her blue ball (from the first book) at the bottom and a small triangular patch of her girl's dress on the left side.  A series of four narrow visuals extend edge to edge on the next two pages; Daisy is playing throw and fetch with her human in the park.

Go get it, Daisy!

Daisy is able to get the ball but comes to a complete standstill when noticing an acorn-holding squirrel directly in front of her.  Time is frozen.  Daisy abandons her ball.  The squirrel tosses the nut.  The race is on.

Scampering through the trees the squirrel easily outdistances Daisy; even looking behind with a devil-may-care glance to make sure the dog is in pursuit.  Daisy gets to the tree the bushy-tailed taunter has climbed, panting and eager.  After a few moments realizing she and the squirrel are not meant to meet, it dawns on her to look around.

In an illustration filling both pages we readers get a bird's-eye view of Daisy in the center of the trees looking forlorn with her girl nearby in the open searching for Daisy.  The girl calls for Daisy and finds her blue ball.  As she calls and looks, Daisy runs and wonders.

Daisy stops, lifts her head and howls, long and mournfully.  There is nothing better than finding what you have lost.  There is nothing better than love or...perhaps another squirrel chase.

I continue to be astonished by the array of feelings and movement Chris Raschka conveys through his gifted use of watercolor, gouache and ink.  Pausing to truly look at any of the pages in this book, each line, its position and thickness, the color choices, the blending of his washes, all contribute to this story feeling alive.  It's as if what he wants his characters to feel is traveling from his mind to his hand to the page.

His choice in illustration size and perspective generates flawless pacing.  The two pages with four smaller illustrations for the girl on the top and for Daisy on the bottom as they run, look, stop and listen depict each and every little nuance of their moods.  Even though the face of the girl is not shown we know and understand.  Raschka gathers in all the shared experiences of his readers as people and their connections to dogs placing them with care on the pages of this book.

 Daisy Gets Lost written and illustrated by Chris Raschka is simply beautiful, brilliant.  It's no wonder Martha V. Parravano talks about it at Calling Caldecott.  You don't have to be a dog lover to appreciate and enjoy this story.  Everyone understands being lost and found, being loved.

Follow this link to the publisher's website for a look at some of the illustrations inside of this book.

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