Quote of the Month

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




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In The Darkening Wood

If you stand perfectly still and wait, wonder comes to you.  As the day ends, twilight descends.  Soon the only light comes from the stars or the moon depending on the date.  A world populated by nocturnal creatures begins to stir.

They call to those in their family and other residents of the forest.  You step into this nighttime realm when reading All ears, all eyes (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 7, 2017) written by Richard Jackson with illustrations by Katherine Tillotson.  The haunting beauty of their words and pictures linger enveloping you.

What sails?
What flies?
Those...these
Down low
nearby
far off...
up high
Who listens?
Who looks?
Who hears?
Who sees? 

These lyrical lines lead us into the woods.  An owl calls and notices two raccoons playing and feasting.  Nearby a prickly porcupine quietly moves as a bat soars above a deer.  If you listen closely, you can hear them.  If you look with careful eyes, you can see them.

Wings rubbing send out chirping.  (Wise listeners can tell the temperature from these sounds.)  Who is barking?  Who is harking?  Fireflies signal on and off, calling out for companionship.

Eyes adjusting to the dark, searching for woodland critters find some and miss others.  The owl continues to hoot.  What messages are being sent?  A lone tree frog replies with a familiar song.

The wind of the day calms but then starts again, pushing branches and leaves with unseen fingers.  All forest life is wide awake alternately moving and still, quiet and loud.  Good night.


Not silent but comforting are the words written by Richard Jackson.  We explore with eyes wide open and ears tuned to the music only heard at night.  Words rhyme.  Lines are brimming with alliteration and onomatopoeia.  As the animals go about their activities and communicate they remind us to rest easy.  Here is another passage.

What scoots
between roots?
All ears
a bat flies,
wings whirring

as light falls
and night rises.


Looking at the fox running through the deep forest falling into darkness under the watchful eyes of the owl and framed in the text is like an open doorway into this book.  The design choices are superb as are the selected hues.  To the left, on the back, of the matching dust jacket and book case is a large portion of white, a place for interior text.  Above it is a portion of the woods.  On the opening endpapers, in the same crisp white, a scattering of leaves drift from the upper left-hand corner to the lower portion of the right side.  Fewer leaves lift upward on a background of darkness and shining stars on the closing endpapers.

The introductory lines prior to the title, verso and dedication pages appear on a continuation of white with leaves and several birds in flight.  They are the remnants of day as the sun sets.  On the title page we step back with a more panoramic view of the woods before the verso and dedication pages which follow.

The illustrations rendered using a combination of watercolor and digital techniques by Katherine Tillotson all span two pages in breathtaking splendor.  They flow taking our eyes from left to right.  Leaves either frame or take center stage in all of them, further connecting each image to the next one.  The color combinations, greens, blues and purples, deep golden yellow and orange with purple and brown, an array of greens, pinks, blues and purples and more are gorgeous.  The method of layering asks us to pause after each page turn to savor the words and pictures.

One of my favorite of all the images features a canopy of leaves across the top in purples, blues and greens, some of them drifting down the right side.  Several tree trunks are highlighted in the foreground.  An owl is perched on a branch on the left.  A bat floats overhead as the fox continues to run.  A mouse sits quietly on a branch on the right side.  And nestled on the forest floor is a design close to my heart.  Can you see it?  I wonder if there are others.


Peace will settle over your soul as you read All ears, all eyes written by Richard Jackson with illustrations by Katherine Tillotson.  It takes us gently by the hand through the forest blanketed with the night.  I highly recommend this for your professional and personal bookshelves.  Read it aloud whenever you can with love; for surely this is how the words were penned and the artwork created.

To discover more about Katherine Tillotson and her other work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  This is one of the titles showcased by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Deborah Kalb interviews Katherine Tillotson on her blog and Katherine Tillotson appears on Kathy Temean: Writing and Illustrating.   Bookology has an interview with Richard Jackson.

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