Nearly forty years ago I found myself exploring the Jordan River (Michigan) when canoeing with friends. This vantage point, being in the valley and on the water, was breathtaking. To fully experience the vastness of this 18,000 acre block of state-owned forest land a drive down one of the nearby county roads, cruising up hills and down again and winding around corners, provides you with stunning vistas. On a clear day with the sun at the right height the hues of red, gold and orange in autumn are stunning. In the winter months all the bare branches look like a border of black lace between the ground and sky. As the days get warmer and longer hints of green begin appearing until, seemingly overnight a variety of shades spreads throughout the trees like delicate filigree.
Fairly early I learned not to wish my life away but the waiting between seasons, knowing the beauty each one brings, is never easy. In Carin Berger's latest title, Finding Spring (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 27, 2015) a cub can't wait to experience this change. Curiosity leads him on a merry chase.
The forest was growing cold.
Mama said that soon it would be time to sleep,
but all Maurice could think about was his first spring.
He makes a melody of the word, singing as they follow the path through the woods. Maurice wants spring more than he wants to sleep. Mama softly speaks to him before she drifts into slumber.
Wrapped in his red scarf Maurice ventures outside to find spring. All his forest friends are busy getting ready for winter. Squirrel, rabbit, deer and robin each advise him to wait as they bury, dash, eat or fly. Fueled by the eagerness of his age he keeps on walking but he begins to sense something unfamiliar.
This newness must be spring. First one than another of those frosty flowers, no two alike, touch Maurice before quickly disappearing. Racing after them through the woods and over an ice-covered stream to stand on the Great Hill, he is very nearly speechless at the spectacle before him. He breaks into song.
Taking off his scarf he tucks some spring inside. Returning to their cozy den, he sleeps contentedly next to Mama. Maybe because he got a late start, Maurice is the last to wake up. His collected proof has vanished. With maternal wisdom, Mama asks the right question.
With her words Carin Berger brings readers into a story soothing but sprightly in tone. She blends a world coming to rest with a little bear ready for adventure. Eloquent descriptions of place and Maurice's experiences make us feel as though we are there with him. Here are two sample passages.
"I am looking for spring,"
Maurice told Squirrel.
"That might take a while,"
turning to bury
a large acorn.
and there was
in the air.
The rolling hills dotted with flowers extend flap edge to flap edge on the dust jacket (working from an F & G). Carin Berger portrays the flowers spinning in the air above Maurice's head to replicate his observations of winter. On the left (back) of the jacket on the creamy background we read
Spring is all a little bear
can think about.
Where is it?
What is it?
When will it arrive?
On the opening and closing endpapers Berger uses old-looking dark tan lined paper with the lines running vertically. A single path of tiny seeds blowing in the wind twirls from edge to edge along the upper half. (On the verso at the back we see from where the seeds come.) Maurice is running along past a patch of grass and flowers placed under the text on the title page.
Using cut-paper collages made
using ephemera, such as catalogues, old books, receipts, letters, and ticket stubs
Carin Berger fashions a world of gentle, playful wonder using a full color palette leaning toward more natural colors. Fine lines, exquisite detail and marvelous points of view invite readers to look at each illustration carefully. Image sizes span across two pages or several smaller visuals may be grouped together to match the rhythm of the text. The articles of clothing worn by the forest animals add to the overall whimsy. Matte-finished paper lends itself beautifully to the overall softness of the narrative.
One of my favorite pictures of many is a single page. We are looking down at Maurice as he stands between two trees. Berger has cut out dainty branches in circular shapes. A single small snowflake is touching the tip of Maurice's nose. The text arcs around the top of the bottom tree. This announces a shift in the story line.
With every reading of Finding Spring written and illustrated by Carin Berger the story becomes more endearing. It reminds us we might find something special and beautiful when looking for something else. It reminds us to enjoy every single day of the present while anticipating the future. Everything about the illustrations, the texture, the blend of light and shadow, colors, intricate elements and layout, is remarkable.
To discover more about Carin Berger and her work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. Julie Danielson, author and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, features her in an interview at Kirkus. Artwork will follow on her blog this week. She also talked with Carin Berger last year at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast about this title. There are several illustrations about the process in making the art for this book. UPDATE: HarperCollins Childrens blog posted this activity for making shadow boxes to go with this title.