For every moment of our lives together Xena has been my barometer. If a weather change is coming her behavior is directly affected. As she ages her movements are slower when a front is on its way. Her nose will lift skyward as if she can smell the shift.
If bird song dies away you can be sure a storm is advancing. A light breeze will still as the air gets heavy. Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story (Schwartz & Wade Books, July 14, 2015) written by Caroline Starr Rose with illustrations by Rob Dunlavey takes readers on a striking tour of a vital ecosystem.
Over in the wetlands
where the silky mist weaves,
Dragonfly lights on a slender reed.
By all appearances everything is well in the bayou but the wind softly speaks otherwise. As the speed ever so slightly increases a crab family moves. Varieties of birds continue to feed in shallow water but the ripples have become waves.
A mother gator carries five babies toward a hidden hole. As clouds move toward the wetlands so do fish seeking safety in deeper water. A hurricane is approaching landfall as winds grow wild.
Turtles scramble toward security. Graceful egrets lean low in shelters of green. It's as dark as night within the blowing trees. They and the wind, an eerie orchestra, create a haunting melody. It seems as if this fierceness will go on without end.
The harsh hurricane finally fades. Mothers and babies play, glide, bask and settle as sunset red colors the now still waters. As stars shine and reflect Dragonfly glides.
With every reading the writing of Caroline Starr Rose takes us deeper and deeper into the Louisiana wetlands teeming with flora and fauna. Her word combinations are a true sensory experience. If we close our eyes and listen to her narrative we are transported. As the storm intensifies we are acutely aware of an ever-growing tension due to the shift in her sentence structure. Her use of punctuation creates a nearly musical rhythm of life before, during and after the hurricane. Here is another sample passage.
smash up debris.
Turtles swim for safer seas.
Dark clouds snarl, press down the skies.
The hurricane grumbles,
the hurricane writhes.
Portions of interior illustrations are placed on the front and back of the matching dust jacket and book case. Each, the egrets and the diving fish, portray a growing sense of unease in the wildlife. Their movements are indicative of the impending storm. Shades of teal and wetland green are used on the opening and closing endpapers. Tiny, almost imperceptible, wavy lines stretch across both, row after row. It's an interesting texture much like the changing water of the bayou area.
A paler, muted shade of green supplies the canvas for the verso and title page. A narrow oval picture of the bayou and Dragonfly is placed between the text on the right.
Rendered in watercolor ink, pencil, paint, collage, and Adobe Photoshop
the images span edge to edge across two pages. Rob Dunlavey heightens the words of Caroline Starr Rose.
We feel the humidity, feel the changing air, hear the crabs crawl, hear the splash as pelicans dive, gaze in wonder at mothers and babies, watch the shifting sky colors and clouds, and hear the roar of the hurricane as it wages a windy war on the wetlands. Varied perspectives bring us near to the animals or depict the vastness of the area. A blend of fine, flowing lines, hues prominent in the region in all kinds of weather and naturalist-like details on the animals and plants draw readers to Louisiana.
One of my favorite pictures is the first one. Against the backdrop of the trees, water, reeds and leaves of the bayou we zoom in on Dragonfly resting. One wing is dipped to make ripples on the otherwise smooth surface. It is most definitely the calm before the storm.
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story written by Caroline Starr Rose with illustrations by Rob Dunlavey is a breathtaking look at a habitat probably not known by others except those living near to the area. It's a tribute to the strength and adaptablility of both the flora and fauna. It's a plea for preservation. At the end an Author's Note further explains the wetlands of Louisiana including five websites for more research. On the opposite page more information is given about the highlighted animals.
To learn more about Caroline Starr Rose and Rob Dunlavey please visit their websites by following the links embedded in their names. They both have an online presence in other venues. At the publisher's website you can view more interior illustrations. When I read Caroline Starr Rose's post at Nerdy Book Club today about this book, I knew I had to write a post. A four-page printable discussion guide is located here.