Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To See...To Be...

What I see in the natural world, from the tiniest raindrop to the ferocious approach of a thunderstorm, from a tiny tree toad making his home on my front porch to walking near a bull elk in a snow-covered meadow, hearing his bugle, is what prompted me to pursue a hobby in photography from the earliest days of printing in my own darkroom to the marvels of digital today.  From color schemes to patterns to design and layout we humans use Mother Nature's marvels in our lives capturing and creating to decorate, cloth and imitate.  We liken ourselves to her creatures; fly like an eagle, swim like a fish.

Indeed one of Charles Caleb Colton's more well-known quotes is "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".  In the case of Molly Idle's new title, Flora and the Flamingo (Chronicle Books, February 5, 2013), imitation is depicted as perhaps, flattery, but more importantly as an overture.  In this case it is an invitation to a lasting, mutual respect; friendship.

Without a single word in the entire volume, we are introduced first to a flamingo as part of a double spread for the title.  With a turn of page the same flamingo has changed from a graceful landing to a one-legged pose, straight as an arrow. We see a hint of Flora in the lower, far-right corner, one brown flipper and part of a leg.

To our delight on the next set of pages there are two flaps; one on the left page, the other on the right.  On the left the flamingo is still at attention.  On the right Flora is mimicking his stance.

When the flaps are lowered we see the flamingo turn to sharply glance at Flora.  She turns away whistling, hands behind her back in a pose of nonchalance, when her flap is lowered.  It is beginning, that loveliest of dances, the getting to know one another, step by step.

As the flamingo moves through a series of elegant positions, Flora carefully copies as best as she can until they stop, heads bent and covered. Then the two new flaps are lowered.  Quick peeks are exchanged.

 Both are giving the other a backward-through-the-legs look when unexpectedly the flamingo airs his frustration at Flora's presence; the force tumbling her in a backward roll.  Eventually re-thinking his emotional outburst, the flamingo extends a wing but Flora is reluctant to accept the request.  Her ultimate decision leads to a succession of brilliantly beautiful ballet movements by two beings perfectly in tune with each other.

The front and back jacket and cover allude to the friendship which will be forged within the pages of this wordless title.  Buttercup yellow opening and closing endpapers mirror the shades on Flora's bathing cap.  The color palette of pink, brown and yellow with hints of gray on large expanses of white space combined with the refined, slightly old-fashioned feeling of the illustrations (Flora's bathing suit, cap and flippers) define the overall emotional impact of this title.  Without a single sound being stated we still hear hope, bewilderment, acceptance and sheer, pure joy through the soft visuals created by Molly Idle.

The delicate branches covered in pale pink blossoms which frame the top of all the pages add balance to the figures.  In the beginning a single blossom sits near the two characters until it lands on Flora's head, petals broken. As Flora and the flamingo come together first one larger, then a smaller blossom gently float down from the branches; one becomes two.

The shape and form of wings, arms, and legs with the expressive eyes, mouth and beak conveys the subtle shifts in mood and dance with amazing clarity.  Altering the size of the flaps increases the impact of the actions taken by the two characters.  Using heavier stock for the pages provides for a richness in addition to being more durable.

You can't help but be mesmerized with every page turn in Flora and the Flamingo created by Molly Idle.  Her illustrations full of warmth and humor, dance and a blossoming friendship are absolutely glorious.  One reading will not suffice. No, not at all. Get ready for repeated readings. Who wouldn't want to share or experience this joy again and again?


  1. What a beautiful concept! Blown away by Molly's creativity and originality. I love this lovely dance of friendship. :)

    1. It is completely heartwarming, adorable and full of emotion. It will make everyone feel like they can dance; like they have a chance at friendship.