Quote of the Month

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

To Be Remembered

Each and every year dandelions and I have a contest; they grow and I dig them up.  (Having a canine companion, I am not one to put any kind of chemicals on my lawn; plus there is the obvious factor of herbicides and fertilizers going into the water table.)  Any observer can see who is winning depending on the section of my lawn.  There is no doubt one portion is the kingdom of dandelions; without them there would be no lawn at all.

When they change from yellow to white, the air is filled with their fluff.  You might see me mowing certain areas more than usual to capture the seeds before they can land on the lawn.  As is often the case with children's literature, authors and illustrators make you pause to see life differently.  Your perspective shifts as they expand on their distinctive "what if".  In their first children's book, The Dandelion's Tale (Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books) author Kevin Sheehan and illustrator Rob Dunlavey have insured I may have to rethink my ongoing battle with these persistent plants.

One fine summer day, Sparrow was out flying above a beautiful green meadow.  The warm sun felt wonderful against his brown, spotted feathers.

Spying a tree, Sparrow glided in to land on a branch gazing out over the field.  He saw a single dandelion that seemed to be...yes...crying.  In reply to his question, she said her sadness was caused by her change from yellow to white to only having ten tiny seed pods left.  When they were gone no one would know she had been there.

During their conversation, she asked him to take her to the other dandelions so she could speak with them.  He flew up searching for more like her, but to his dismay there were none.  Dandelion then told Sparrow if she only had one wish it would to be remembered.

Kindhearted and clever Sparrow had an idea.  He would scratch out whatever Sparrow told him in a nearby dirt patch. For hours she spoke of all she had seen.  For hours he wrote her words.  At the close of the day, he read her story to her; promising to return the next day to read it aloud again.   As you can imagine both Sparrow and Dandelion were filled with joy.

In the dark of night the weather played a cruel trick on the new friends; a dreadful storm passed through the meadow.  Daybreak brought sadness and a song.  Weeks passed, there was a story to be told...and Sparrow spoke.

Last night the tweet below appeared in my feed.

In his writing of this book Kevin Sheehan tells us exactly how stories save us; they keep us connected to one another even when one or more are no longer a part of our lives.  Sheehan has fashioned an uplifting tale of not only friendship but of the power of hearing a story and telling it to others.  The rewards are rich for the teller and the listener.

His description of the circle of life through the conversation between Sparrow and Dandelion and the events as they unfold is truthful but filled with love.  Through Sheehan's words we are transported to the beauty of the meadow during the day, the storm and in the following weeks.  He takes great care to surround us with a sense of comfort.  Here are two samples.

"Write that I like the smell of the meadow the day after it rains."

Morning came, and with it, the sun rose in the sky.  Rustling the water from his feathers, Sparrow sprang from his nest and flew to the dogwood tree.

When opening the matching dust jacket and book case readers see a single image of grass, sky with wispy clouds, Dandelion and Sparrow speaking and chains of leaves around the title on the front and a brief annotation on the back.  The pale blue from the front continues as a solid color on the opening and closing endpapers.  A beautiful ring composed of dogwood blossoms, dandelions, clover, Dandelion and Sparrow circle the text on the title page.

Rendered in ink, watercolor, colored pencil, crayon and digital media the illustrations, placed on a heavy matte-finished paper, are utterly charming. Rob Dunlavey chooses to change his picture size and placement enhancing the text.  To begin there are two double-page spreads so readers can get a feel for the meadow as a whole.  When Sparrow goes down to speak with Dandelion it's a close-up of the two on a single page.

To elevate intimacy he includes numerous circular pictures, delicate in detail and color palette. The hues vary when Dandelion is telling her story to more pastel shades.  Speaking of detail, his facial features on Dandelion are precious.

My favorite two pages include four circles representing parts of Dandelion's story.  Beneath these Sparrow is seen writing the words in the patch of dirt.  It's a gorgeous extension and interpretation of the text.

The Dandelion's Tale written by Kevin Sheehan with illustrations by Rob Dunlavey is a radiant representation of friendship, storytelling, memory and love.  It has a timeless quality, a distinct feel of a classic.  It should be on every bookshelf.

For more about Kevin Sheehan and Rob Dunlavey please visit their websites by following the links embedded in their names.  John Schumacher, teacher librarian and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. interviews Kevin Sheehan.  Julie Danielson highlights Rob Dunlavey and his artistic process for this book on her blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  To get a peek at a few pages inside the book, follow this link to the publisher's website.

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