Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


For almost fourteen years I've carried a flashlight as Xena and I take our final walk of the day.  It carves a safe space for us to move through the darkness navigating over our lawn, along the side of the road and through the uneven ground of vacant lots.  It picks up the eyes of deer snacking in gardens, the slither of a snake crossing the road, and the flash of rabbit's tail. Thankfully it announces our presence to less than careful motorists.

Certainly comforting, it also casts a different glow on the flora and fauna of our natural surroundings.  Flashlight (Chronicle Books) a wordless vision by author illustrator Lizi Boyd is one child's adventurous exploration of the night.  Grab a flashlight, turn off the lights and let's explore!

Nearly mirror images, but not quite, the dust jacket and book case in silver gray, black and white with colors illuminated in a radiating triangle, beckon to readers.  Opening endpapers in black, white and silver gray feature delicate images of plants and animals seen within the book.  Spot color is added to similar scenes on the closing endpapers.

A page turn, the verso on the left, the title on the right, begins the story.  A small tent houses our seeker lying on their stomach, head resting on hands, reading a book, as the flashlight casts a beam outside.  Leaving the tent footwear is donned, the flashlight placed on the ground showing us a yellow boot, grass and tiny red flowers.

Walking from place to place, a shift from left hand to right and back or an arm raised, lowered and up again, we see small portions of the dark showcased, briefly put on display.  Startled bats take flight, mice scamper, an owl's eyes widen, and a porcupine nestled in the crook of a tree chews on bark.  Cautiously hidden behind a tree we watch skunks waddle away; whew no phew.

As the child tours through nature's realm, those caught in the flashlight beam keep watch following.  Getting up after stopping to snack on some apples, a stone trips the wanderer.  Both the youth and the flashlight tumble to the ground.

In a humorous twist, the viewpoint is altered.  Creatures create delight.  Gathering, guiding and providing, memories are made on this marvelous magical night.

Using the unique color palette introduced on the dust jacket and cover, Lizi Boyd, using gouache, paints stunning double and single page illustrations throughout this title.  Delicate details, fine lines and simple expressive facial features create a hushed atmosphere evoking a slower pace.  Readers turn pages expectantly, eyes searching.

Matte-finished paper provides an engaging tactile experience.  By the second picture readers realize Boyd has painstakingly given them a gift.  Small cuts in the pages focus on portions of the next page incorporating it into the current visual.  Right to left, page after page, we hunt for these tiny treasures.

We are aware of the passage of time as the moon rises and travels across the sky.  Some smaller elements in her illustrations have color without the use of the flashlight; a choice begging for discussion.  It is impossible to select a favorite illustration.  The center piece of the child seeing the fawn, then sitting to eat the apples is pleasing and peaceful.  More of the animals are coming closer perhaps out of curiosity or to provide company.

Certain to be a bedtime classic whether sleeping inside or outside, Flashlight conceived and illustrated by Lizi Boyd is a masterful work of art.  She elevates simple to superb.  I would plan on having multiple copies.  This is sure to be discussed in Mock Caldecott groups.

Please take a moment to visit Lizi Boyd's website by following the link embedded in her name.  If you follow this link to the publisher's website three more two-page spreads are shared.  Even more artwork can be seen by stopping by a post at Brain Pickings.  Lizi Boyd is a guest on a Let's Get Busy podcast hosted by teacher librarian, Matthew C. Winner.  Last year Lizi Boyd was part of a trifecta at Watch. Connect. Read. hosted by John Schumacher, sharpread hosted by Colby Sharp and at the Nerdy Book Club.  This title was taken on John Schumacher's Road Trip this summer.

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