Quote of the Month

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

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Night Like No Other

Upon opening the package containing my personal copy of One Starry Night (Margaret K. McElderry Books) written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, I gasped; so taken by the visual impact of the rich hues of midnight blue, warm brown, creamy white all accented in soft black, the humble portrait of Joseph, Mary and the child beneath a blanket of silver stars.  Turning the first page One Starry Night in white sits in the night sky as a lone owl perches on a broken tree in the desert clime.  He takes flight across a two-page landscape featuring further publication and title information.  It is here readers are told:

The wild animals featured in this book could all be found in the Holy Land at the time of the traditional nativity story.  They are the untamed cousins of the domesticated animals named in the text.

Followed by another double-page illustration (which is the format throughout the book), the owl now sitting on a rocky ledge is joined by a small rodent as the author and illustrator name their dedications.

Using little but powerful and prayerful text alternately rhyming, Thompson speaks of female animals watching over their young; a sheep with her lamb, a cow with her calf, a nanny goat with her kid, a pig with her piglet, a cat with her kitten, a dog with her pup, a donkey with her foal and a dove with her doveling. 

a nanny goat watched over her kid
"never far"
a pig watched over her piglet
"wherever you are"

All seem to be moving toward a destination.  It is in the final pages that readers see they are to join one another in a common purpose.  To gaze upon, surround and rest near the Holy Family who themselves sought shelter in a tiny, open, wooden stable outside the town of Bethlehem, as they watch over their child.

Jonathan Bean rendered all the illustrations for this title in pencil and colored them digitally.  This technique produced breathtaking results reminiscent of charcoal drawings giving a velvet softness to each visual; motion shrouded in stillness.

The owl glides across the sky of a mother/child depiction, the rodent is tucked among a stony outcropping, a hedgehog peeks out, an occupied web stretches among tree branches or a scorpion scurries.  Careful viewers will notice the skillful use of foreshadowing; animals to be featured are woven into the previous pages' scenery.   Knowledge of the setting, flora and fauna, is highly evident in the smallest of details.

Regal reverence reaches out to readers in this exquisite rendition of the Holy Night by Lauren Thompson and Jonathan Bean.  All is right in the world, a peacefulness settles, in this title, One Starry Night, surely destined to be a classic for its singular, stunning portrayal of the Nativity.

Please visit each of these gifted artist's websites linked to their names above.  A truly wonderful interview of Jonathan Bean is found at Seven Impossible Things Before BreakfastHe reveals his process for creating his beautiful illustrations; numerous visuals found in this book are displayed within that post.

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