Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 7, 2014

In Silence

Everything takes longer now.  Movement is measured with numerous stops to lift her head in the air taking deep breaths through her nose.  As her companion I follow, pausing when she does.  It's not easy but the rewards have been huge.  My aging dog is still teaching me lessons about life.

When you slow down you tend to be more aware of your surroundings; the small details become large.  We wonder about new prints in the snow, our breath clouding the midnight air as trees pop and crack in the woods.  Circles around the moon, falling stars, frosted branches, sugary snow gleaming like diamonds in the sun and the bright call of chickadees fill our wintry nights and days.  Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons (Scholastic Press) presented by Koo and Jon J Muth with illustrations by Jon J Muth asks readers to appreciate, to marvel at, the everyday, looking at it with new eyes.

In an introductory author's note Jon J Muth speaks about the evolution of the poetic form, haiku.  His final sentence depicts the very essence of this book.

At its best, a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature.  

He also adds these twenty-six poems take an alphabetical journey through the seasons with one word in each given a capital letter.

Beginning with fall we look around personifying this season, curious about the change in wardrobe.  Cleaning up leaves, lost items found on a windy day and the contrast between cold rainy days and the warmth of home are musings given to readers.  Two young friends, a boy and a girl, follow Koo into winter.

Snow prints, snowballs, ice, and snowfall keep this trio on the go.  What's that? A cat?  Tiny spots of color herald the newness of spring.  It's time to get outside trading in screen time for playtime.  Oh...the wonders to be seen and understood; puddles, nests, reading to chirping friends and the sorrow of an ended life.

Earthbound stars, a sliver of moon, water catching thrown stones, and sidewalk fantasies lead to the absolute stillness found in listening to Nature breathe; in and out, in and out.  String the single alphabetical words together.  It's a study in seasonal sensations.

As fluid and evocative as his watercolor illustrations, Jon J Muth's words call forth those singular seconds in our lives we might otherwise fail to notice.  Whether a question, a statement, an observation, or an invitation, the group of words has been thoughtfully chosen to depict the heart of the moment; how it is seen, heard, felt, or tasted.  In all of the poems but one a soft joy reaches out like the best kind of endearment to the reader; lifting our spirits.  In that one poem Muth wants us to consider carefully the results of our actions in the world around us.

The branch filled with cherry blossoms, the pale blues of the sky reaching toward the glow of spring green grass, petals scattered among the blades, are particularly pleasing. Who can resist smiling at the antics of Koo on the front dust jacket or doing handstands with his two friends on the back?  What's even better is the different case beneath.  A cloud filled sky patterns the wide spine.  The back and front is a solid lively green with Koo cartwheeling across the front.  Endpapers in shades of pale purple zoom in on blossoms turned to leaves.

Jon J Muth uses white space to draw readers into each illustration.  A single picture is dedicated to each poem.  Even though each visual is separate from the other they are joined by the color palette in each.  I would happily frame any one to hang with honor in my home; Koo holding on to a lamp post with his umbrella outstretched in the rain dreaming of eating soup at home, shadows stretching beneath lamplight as delicate snow falls, flashlight beams shining on frolicking friends, or Koo skipping stones as his companions play along the water's edge.

One of my favorite illustrations is found on the final page.  Koo is seated on a tree branch with his back to us.  He is so still his pal, the cardinal, has built a nest on his head.  The picture is filled with hues of blue, green and golden leaves framing the panda.  Perfection.  Peace.

When members of my PLN visited Anderson's Bookshops' Author's Breakfast in February Jon J Muth was a featured guest.  After their proclamations I could hardly wait to read Hi, Koo!  It was well worth the wait many times over.  I think this would pair nicely with Matthew Cordell's hello! hello! and Dan Yaccarino's Doug Unplugged.

Please follow the link embedded in Jon J Muth's name to access his website.  Reading Rockets has a series of video interviews with Muth here.  At Literacyhead Jon J Muth is interviewed.  He is one of the artists showcased at their wonderful site.

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