As winds howl sending snow swirling into drifts, reading transports us to other places in other times. While most of nature is at rest, within the pages of books, we look to the seasons which follow. That which is asleep will awaken. Where there is no life, new creations will emerge and flourish, coming back full circle to winter.
The beauty displayed by the flora during most seasons in our world can and is preserved for study and art. Drawn from Nature (Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 13, 2018) written and illustrated by Helen Ahpornsiri is an informative and breathtaking display of animals and plants in spring, summer, autumn and winter. For each season our attention is focused on six to eight special elements, all meticulously formed from petals and leaves.
Life in the wild doesn't stay still for long.
Year after year, plants bloom in spring and fade
in autumn in a cycle as old as time. Animals follow the pattern of the seasons, too---searching for food and rearing their young---sometimes roaming many miles between one chapter of their lives and the next.
In the spring birdsong announcing the coming of dawn is a call for a mate; the louder the song, the greater the attraction. Female hares, larger than rabbits, stand on their hind legs to push back undesirable males. It's called "boxing". There is a reason new ducks follow their mothers closely. They need the oil from her feathers to protect their own, helping them to stay on top of the water, swimming.
There are creatures of the field, in the summer, who can hang from stalks of grasses and wheat. Harvest mice have prehensile tails. Did you know dragonfly larvae can stay in the water for up to two years? The leaves on the variety of trees are green for a reason . . . breathe in, breathe out. At night owls are skillful hunters using the shape of their faces to capture sounds.
When autumn falls the noise of rutting deer is heard a mile away. Dropped colorful leaves carpet forest floors protecting wildlife and seeds. Nuts buried by busy squirrels, if forgotten, grow into new trees. Rains bring out vivid displays of mushrooms; lovely to look at but many times deadly to consume.
Winter arrives. Snoozing hedgehogs slow their heartbeats
from 130 beats per minute to 20.
Birds not leaving for warmer residences fluff and puff to block the cold and preserve heat. On days when moist air lingers, and temperatures drop, the morning reveals an ice-coated world.
As delicate as her pictures, the words written by Helen Ahpornsiri resonate with a respect and passion for our natural world. Facts are embedded in lyrical descriptions. She points out details and transitions from season to season she wants us to remember. It's as if she is taking us on our own personal walk through the meadows and woodlands, and past nearby ponds. Here is a passage.
Butterflies & Blossoms
A spring breeze blows, carrying with it a flurry of pink-white
petals. They land, like snow, beneath the trees, where butterflies
flit between banks of bright flowers.
The warm days of late spring tempt more and more butterflies to appear.
Some have made long journeys on their migrations while others are
just coming out of hibernation. The spring flowers provide
a rich source of nectar for the butterflies---just what
they need after the winter. You'll see them most on
calm sunny days, when neither wind nor rain can
threaten their delicate wings.
The open and matching dust jacket and book case are a first stunning glimpse at the splendor to be found within the pages of this book. The graceful lines and intricate parts achieved with the collage artistry of Helen Ahpornsiri are masterful. Numerous points on the heron, featured on the front of the jacket, contain gold foil.
To the left, on the back, on a continuation of the white canvas are a row of exquisite flowers arching upward on the right. Across the top a branch of pale purple blossoms reaches from the left. Four butterflies move among the blooms.
On the opening and closing endpapers an array dense with ferns fashion scroll work. In pockets of white bees, butterflies, moths and a dragonfly rest and glide. This design is carried forward to the first page and the last page. Tiny bits of nature dot the title and verso pages, the contents and introduction.
For each season Helen Ahpornsiri places a full-page picture on the left showcasing items from that season. Some of those are used in the animal she places above the heading. For most of the sections in a season the background is white, but three times she uses black. (You will gasp at the beauty.) Some of the illustrations cross the gutter to extend a theme. These may be full-page images or striking double-page visions.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is of the hare. The grass is placed along the bottom of two pages, extending to nearly the center. On the right she is frozen with her head turned toward the reader; her one dark eye unblinking. The position of every leaf defines her fur and muscles. It is eloquent.
Readers will be captivated by Drawn from Nature written and illustrated by Helen Ahpornsiri. They will pause to study each image. They will relish the information and be excited to learn more and take their own walk among nature. There is a short glossary at the end. You might want to have a flower press handy to show your readers. I am including a video at the end on how to make your own.
To learn more about Helen Ahpornsiri and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. You can view an interior image at the publisher's website. There are more illustrations at Penguin Random House. Helen Ahpornsiri has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. She is featured by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Please take a few moments to enjoy these videos.
Remember to stop at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.