Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Place To Call...

My fireplace mantle this morning.
Whether it's at the end of a walk on a forest trail, the end of a day of teaching or the end of an extended journey, walking through the doors of my home has an immediate calming effect.  It's not the structure itself for I've lived in a tent, a motel room, apartments, small houses, new houses, old houses and large houses.  It's not the setting for I've lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks and on country roads away from cities, in the woods and next to a lake.

No, it's all about the place, the space inside, where a sense of belonging and security surrounds you.  It's a sanctuary for those who live there.  In her debut picture book, Home (Candlewick Press, February 24, 2015) author illustrator Carson Ellis presents her remarkable perceptions of homes.

Home is a house in the country.
Or home is an apartment.

For sailors at sea, their dwelling needs to float; an intricate network of lines, masts and sails making them move.  On land stepping back in time First Nation dwellers fashion homes using trees and bark. Imagined majesty, hidden from view or inside a shoe, homes may come from the pages of Arabian classic literature or Mother Goose rhymes.

In a European country or under the ocean's waves, these residences reflect those who live there.  We cheer, dance and sing but at the close of the concert, the musicians, the members of the band, head out on the open road in their rumbling bus of a home.  Impeccable or rather chaotic, towering or tiny, these structures are all home to someone.  Tanks for fish, hives for bees and a shell of a tree provide habitats.

Then we get to wonder who would live high on a cliff, under mushrooms, or beneath a dome on another planet.  We travel to Slovakia, Kenya, Japan and to the realm of a Norse god.  We are inside the kitchen of a Russian grandmother, the bedroom of a resident on the Earth's moon and the leafy nook of a raccoon.

We turn pages following our winged guide until we land in a creative corner.  It's a gathering of all we've seen, a collection of concepts for homes.  It's a starting point, an ending and a beginning.

Very simple sentences, more like observations, encourage readers to stop and take a look.  Carson Ellis suggests we gaze around us, go back to the past, open a book or spin a globe, to see and dream about places people and creatures might live, real or imagined.  She asks us to look at any home and wonder about the inhabitants.  When she shows us her home, then inquiring about our home, she makes this journey a shared experience, an intimate conversation between her and the reader.  Here are several other pictured passages.

Clean homes.  Messy homes.
Tall homes.  Short homes.

When you open the dust jacket (I'm working from an F & G; albeit a beautiful one.) the back is a varied steelier shade of the teal seen on the front.  The twenty-one homes shown on the front indicate we are in for a rare exploration of homes from the present, past, nature and the imagination.  The precise layout, in a word, is stunning.  The red on the dust jacket supplies the color for the opening and closing endpapers.  When the next page is turned, as our eyes move from the left to the right, we see the vee in a leafy tree branch offers a place for a bird's nest.  In the center of the title page a dove is in flight.  Above the branch the publication information and dedications appear.

Heavier matte-finished paper is the precise canvas needed for these illustrations rendered in gouache and ink.  All the lettering is done by hand.  Carson Ellis has an eye for flawless design.

Using a limited color palette the images extended across the gutter from page edge to page edge.  You will want to pause at each one, not wanting to miss any of the details; the items in the apartment windows, the monkey walking on the ship's line, the delicate trees and flowers, the clothing worn by all the children, the knights riding seahorses or what's cooking in the babushka's kitchen.  Carson Ellis brings us full circle using the dove as an element in every two pages as well as herself, seen in the first and last home.

One of my favorite illustrations is of the little forest world.  Ellis uses a teacup (seen in several other images) to give us perspective.  Everything is in miniature; the flowers, ferns, mushrooms, the snail, butterfly, lichen, bugs and shrew.  The little, little red-roofed house with smoke coming from the chimney with tiny articles of clothing hanging on the line is exquisite.

Debut picture book author illustrator Carson Ellis has given readers a gift sure to send our minds soaring as we view her Home.  We are left wanting to know more about those residences we pass every day, those we long to see or those we find in reading.  It's a book with answers and many more wonderful questions.

Please take a moment to learn more about Carson Ellis by visiting her website following the link attached to her name.  She has a new FAQ section.  Carson Ellis presents a guest post about this title at PictureBook Makers.  Author and blogger, Julie Danielson, talks with Carson Ellis about her book at Kirkus, Home Sweet Home with Carson Ellis.  Danielson follows with illustrations on her blog at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Carson Ellis writes a letter to her readers posted at the Candlewick website.  UPDATE:  Please take a moment to view the video of Carson Ellis speaking about her home and this book at Carter Higgin's website, Design of the Picture Book

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