Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Watch, Wait And Wonder

More than fifteen years ago at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was the first and only time I've seen whales.  My group went on to other parts of the aquarium but I was mesmerized by the belugas; their size, color and grace in the water was a thing of true beauty.  Even understanding the care given to them at Shedd Aquarium (and other animals in zoos and aquariums throughout the world),  I long for a planet where all living creatures could live their lives safely, as they were meant to, in the wild.

To catch a glimpse of a whale while traveling by boat or even from the shore, would be one of those unforgettable moments you carry with you forever.  The collaborative team of author, Julie Fogliano, and Caldecott illustrator, Erin E. Stead, first brought readers And Then It's Spring (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, February 14, 2012); a quiet tribute to possibility and promise.  This month their newest work, If You Want To See A Whale (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, May 7, 2013), follows another little boy and his dog as they practice the fine art of patience.

if you want to see a whale you will need a window

Well, not just a window but an ocean and time for thinking about "whale-ish" shapes.  Maybe it is a whale and maybe it is not a whale.

You can't very well see a whale either from the snuggly comfort of your favorite spot at home.  You will have to ignore other distractions like roses, ships in the distance on the water and the people on those ships.  There is no time to be thinking of pirates.

Don't let pelicans, tiny creepy-crawlies or clouds lead you astray with their smiles, movements or fluffy forms.  No, you need to stay the course.  You need to keep both eyes open, watching the water, and waiting for the wonder of a whale.

When reading the words of Julie Fogliano you find yourself entering a special world; a world of the everyday transformed but her writing.  She makes a simple statement but builds upon it, layer by layer until you not only have an image in your mind but a sequence of events leading to that point.  In this story those things to be enjoyed when not whale watching, the chair and blanket, the roses, the ship, the pelican, inchworms and clouds, are described in such a way as to nearly become characters themselves.  Every single passage plays a quiet song in your mind when read.

There is a quality to the art of Erin E. Stead, her use of space and color, that is stunning in it's simplicity.  When opening the jacket, the image of a whale swimming upward on the back is replicated in an engraving on the blue cloth front cover.  Moving from page to page the shift of white, to a subtle blue or green and then back to white, the interplay of opposites, is design genius.  On her boy, his dog and other items in the illustrations on a given page the fine lines, the tiniest of details, are a delight to behold.

Using linoleum block printing and pencil Stead weaves a kind of magic drawing her reader's eyes into a day dedicated to whale watching; a day following a young boy, his dog and the smallest of birds she includes in every two page spread.  We silently observe their explorations and musings marveling at her interpretation of Fogliano's narrative.  The same shade of yellow in the comfy chair is found again in the dinghy the three companions row out onto the sea.  The hair coloring on the boy is a variation of the same hue in the dog's spots.  The sky highlighting the cloud patterns appears again in a series of three pages that will literally take your breath away.

If You Want To See A Whale written by Julie Fogliano with pictures by Erin E. Stead is picture book perfection.  Readers will wish they could join the curious boy, his faithful dog and the sweet bird as they wait and watch and wonder.  I can't stop reading this again and again.  It's one of those books to cherish and share.

To see more illustrations from this title visit the publisher website linked here.  For an outstanding visual display of the artistic process with supporting conversation from Erin E. Stead visit Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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