Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Into The Night

In the month of March 1872 by an act of Congress, our first national park was established in the territories of Montana and Wyoming.  Today Yellowstone National Park is one of more than 400 national parks. This year in October the third established national park will celebrate its 125th anniversary.  Portions of this California landscape were already protected under the Yosemite Grant Act of 1864.  Through the efforts of a champion for maintaining our nation's natural wonders Yosemite National Park was created.

This advocate, John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, devoted his adult life to the study and preservation of wilderness.  Through his personal accounts and published writing others, even today, can know of the grandeur to be found.  In John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall (Charlesbridge, March 10, 2015) written by Julie Danneberg with illustrations by Jamie Hogan our focus is drawn to one particular unforgettable evening.

From the sawmill on the creek, John Muir has a perfect view of the springtime waterfall



           CAREENING wildly over the side of the mountain.

For two years John lived near the waterfall in the Yosemite Valley.  He built a cabin where he slept in a hammock over running water. Eventually he lived in a sawmill, keeping his collected works in a special balcony-like room.  

One night he longed for more than watching the waterfall from its base.  An avid climber he moved along the mountain walls with skill.  He was close enough to the falls to feel the mist from the racing water.   

Ever the adventurer he sought a way to bring himself nearer.  He located a ledge, flattened himself against the rock and moved slowly until he could put his hand in the water. When a stiff wind lifted the water away from the ledge and wall, John took advantage of this opportunity.

Behind the watery curtain he could see the moon.  The sound must have been like standing in the center of a percussion section during the 1812 Overture.  At a moment when his senses sang with joy, the breeze calmed.  

John now found himself in a dangerous position.  The full force of the falls struck every inch of his body as he waited and waited.  Patiently, slowly as a snail, a destination was reached.  

Painstaking research is evident in the presentation Julie Danneberg delivers to her readers.  On the left side of each two pages the story, poetic at times, provides a sensory understanding of this event.  In the lower corner on the right or left factual descriptive paragraphs about John Muir's lifestyle supply a more complete picture of the man.  Here is the paragraph placed with the words portraying him touching the falls on the ledge.

Throughout his life Muir recorded thoughts, adventures, scientific observations, and drawings of plants and mountains in his journal, which he carried, along with a magnifying glass, attached to his belt.  He was a prolific writer, and the material for his published writing often came directly from his journals.  

In opening the matching dust jacket and book case readers get a true sense of the size of the falls at Yosemite in comparison to Muir standing on the ledge.  To the left, on the back, an oval portrait of Muir is depicted above his words

Two evenings ago I climbed the mountain to the foot of the upper Yosemite Falls...

A lighter shade of the blue background on the jacket and case is used for the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page Muir is standing in a meadow looking across the river toward the mountains of Yosemite.  The first of fourteen two page illustrations rendered in Prismacolor and pastel pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes paper is a closer perspective of the title page including the publication information on the left. The texture supplied by Hogan's medium mirrors that found in a journal.  

Jamie Hogan alters the image viewpoint to give readers a true sense of being in the moment with Muir.  Her close-ups of his facial features disclose his emotions completely.  Details found in her visuals depict authenticity with every line.   

One of my favorite illustrations is of John Muir looking through the falls from the ledge after the wind has blown the water away from the wall. The reflection in his eyes, the set of his mouth and position of his hat depict barely contained awe at the sight.  On either side of his face white water splashes past.  This is an instant of pure joy.

After reading John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall written by Julie Danneberg with illustrations by Jamie Hogan readers will come away with even more appreciation for the work of this iconic figure in the field of conservation and environmentalism.  His accomplishments have left a profound mark on our natural world and national parks.  In reading this title we not only learn more about the man, but perhaps we can challenge ourselves to be better observers and caretakers.  At the conclusion is a two page note offering more about John Muir.  On the final page are Learn More websites, Books About John Muir and Citations.

To learn more about Julie Danneberg and Jamie Hogan please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Knowing about the author and illustrator enriches the reading of their work.  By following this link to the publisher's website you can view another of my favorite images from the interior of the book.   

To view the other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, please stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.

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