Quote of the Month

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

There's No Time Like...

More than four hundred fifty years ago, a phrase was coined indicating you should do something immediately rather than wait for a more opportune time.  It was understood there was no purpose in planning and fretting about possibilities; it was believed the present was the optimum moment.  Today this definition still holds true.

Another perspective for there's no time like the present would be to ask ourselves to pause and rest our minds.  Are we constantly mulling over an incident from the past?  Are we thinking about something which may or may not happen in hours, days or weeks in the future?  What wonder would we enjoy if we focused on the present alone?  Now (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, July 11, 2017) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis (Wait, Best Frints in the Whole Universethrough the mind and actions of a child depicts finding joy in the moment.

This is my favorite breeze.

A single leaf, this leaf, held like a fan is cherished by the child, the narrator.  She also relishes one particular hole in the ground.  It's the one she is sitting in.  It's the one she is digging.

As she stands in mud, holds a worm and gazes at clouds, she declares each one her favorite.  It's not because of a particular quality each one exhibits but because she is experiencing that puddle of mud, that wiggling worm and that gauzy cloud now.  This little girl is teaching us that nothing is better than reveling in this second.

No matter the weather or the loss, she looks for the bliss.  She uses her senses, encountering her world through sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.  Her favorite song is not at the top of the charts, it's the one she happens to be singing now.

She prods the empty space in her mouth, missing a tooth.  Her cat is the not so thrilled recipient of a goodnight embrace.  But as this day of many days comes to a close she declares her final favorite.  It's a declaration of why Now is the very best now of all nows.

The simplicity of the statements written by Antoinette Portis allows readers to be lifted up and into the story.  Through the voice of the child we come to understand how delight can be found in everyday things; most of them free for all.  The grouping of the sentences establishes a rhythm; the naming of two favorites followed by a third because it is engaging the little girl at the present time.  Here is a sample group of three phrases.

This is my favorite rain.
That was my favorite boat.
This is my favorite tree because it's the one where I am swinging.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case the attraction of the front of each is increased.  Now we can see the entire face of the girl continuing over the spine and to the left on the back.  It's not entirely symmetrical which is an excellent design choice.  There is more white space on the left.  On the left the girl's ear is covered with her hair.  The center of the leaf is tilted to the right.

The hue from the title text and the leaf covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Pale green clouds dot the title, verso and dedication pages.  A large sun holds the dedication name.

The illustrations, rendered using sumi ink, brush, and bamboo stick with color added digitally by Antoinette Portis, extend the openness of her text filling the pages with utter delight.  A limited color palette, leaning toward earth tones and perfect for the heavier matte-finished paper, adds a sense of realism.  We can easily imagine ourselves finding the same contentment as the little girl.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is the first one we see.  Spanning two pages, it portrays the girl standing on a grassy hill on the right.  Her eyes are closed.  Her hair is blowing behind her.  Her arms are lifted on either side of her toward the sky.  Large brush strokes of teal stretch from left to right blending into the girl's face, shirt and striped skirt.  She is feeling the breath of the breeze.

Now written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is about standing still in the rush around us.  It's asking us to observe and extend gratitude for each given opportunity...now.  This perspective grants readers a feeling of peace.  It would be interesting to see how readers would extend this title relative to their surroundings at the moment.  I can't imagine a professional or personal bookshelf without this title.

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.  Antoinette Portis maintains an Instagram account.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson shares her review and interior images at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There are several interviews and conversations with Antoinette Portis from two years ago at Number Five Bus Presents..., The Horn Book, Publishers Weekly and Kid Lit Frenzy.  While the title discussed the most in these is Wait, you can still learn about Antoinette Portis and her process.

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