Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Solid As A...

Decades after the first lesson, my eyes are still scanning the beaches.  It needs to be the right shape to smoothly fit in the curve formed by my thumb and index finger.  If it's not the correct weight, too heavy or too light, it won't sail over and bounce on the water.  With the precise angle and wrist action, a personal best is always possible.  It's not simply about skipping stones though but the memories attached to the days.

When gathering rocks for an outdoor fireplace, a garden wall or pathway through the yard, conversations are remembered.  After permission is granted, a farmer may be ready to chat.  There is history within rocks, a history of our earth, but there is history surrounding rocks and their use by humans and other animals.  You have to be ready to look, touch and listen.

Few collaborative efforts express genuine appreciation for natural elements more than the books, A Leaf Can Be... and Water Can Be... written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Violeta Dabija.  Their third title, A Rock Can Be... (Millbrook Press, March 1, 2015) is as illuminative and inspirational as its predecessors.

A rock is a rock.
It's sand, pebble, stone.
Each rock tells a story,
a tale all its own.

With an introduction as comforting as a beloved sanctuary, readers are enveloped in this new exploration of earth's foundation.

Eleven two-word pairs portray a particular perspective.  We are guests in a conversation created by two gifted artists, one in words and the other in illustrations.  We are awakened to wonders we might never see or those we fail to notice daily.

Rocks offer challenges to be met or vessels for water.  They preserve the prehistoric past or lead us to a destination.  As a fiery rumble or a silent glow, these stones speak.  Game pieces, building adornment, and warmth maker, their uses are numerous.

Rocks provide shelter, form sandy hills, light the night sky and supply the finishing touch on a living planet.  They make mealtime easier, give sanctuary to sailors and bridge boundaries.  Seen on hands, in village squares, on bookshelves and in farming communities, their purpose is apparent.

Now go and discover
what else it can be!

When these marvelous two-word couplets are formed by the masterful Laura Purdie Salas the passion she feels for her subject is there for us to read.  Not only does she reveal how rocks shape our lives but her descriptions ask us to examine how we select words to express ourselves.  I can imagine her thinking about all the spots and spaces occupied by rocks, then choosing the exact combinations to make it a sensory experience for us.  Here are two of her couplets.

Tall mountain
Park fountain

Volcano flow-er
Night glow-er

Using a blend of traditional and digital media, the luminosity seen in the earlier titles returns in these illustrations rendered by Violeta Dabija. The matching dust jacket and book case take us to the seashore where the cheerful crab and sentinel seagull (on the back) direct us to the title and a poetic question, respectively.  It's interesting to compare the three books together.  The solid color endpapers on one become the main background color for the jacket and case on another.  In this instance the blue from Water Can Be... supplies the opening and closing hues.  The golden yellow from this book is seen on the endpapers of A Leaf Can Be... as well as on its title. A circle of pebbles in blue, golden yellow, brown and white frame the text on this book's title page.  The beach from the jacket and case appears as a double-page spread for the verso and first page; two feet resting on sand and pebbles, a fish fossil in view.

With each image Dabija places all the elements with care making strikingly atmospheric scenes.  You want to climb her mountains, walk through the glen next to an ancient fountain, eavesdrop on students in a museum or search for a perfect pebble.  Page turns give us a glorious window into another world.

Delicate details invite closer inspection; scrolled stone pots holding flowers, dust aglow from sunshine stirred by a butterfly's flight, or lace gracing a wrist.  Picture size, edge to edge, shifts with the poetic phrases from single to double.  The larger visuals are a breathtaking blend of two separate thoughts.

You can nearly hear the waves washing against the rock walled harbor in one of my favorite images.  On the left sailboats silently sit in a protective arc, a lighthouse guarding the entrance.  The buildings in the seaside community spread across the gutter from left to right.  A canal runs through the village center, bridges placed at intervals.  Shades of blue, purple and red with splashes of white supply a true feeling of serenity.

A Rock Can Be... written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Violeta Dabija has you wishing it was a pebble you could pick up and carry in your pocket.  Using our eyes and imaginations first and then using our own senses second, we notice rocks with a brand-new mindset.  This book is a gift from Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija to us.  Now we need to pass it on to others as often as we can. The concluding five pages showcase informative explanations about each of the two word phrases, a Glossary and a list of five books for Further Reading.  

To discover more about Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija please follow the links attached to their names.  You will be able to visit Salas's website and an illustrator page devoted to Dabija.  For most of March on a daily basis Laura Purdie Salas has been tweeting about all the things rocks can be.  They are collected on her blog.


  1. Wow. This is the loveliest review ever, with so much thought put into it and so many connections made. I adore your observations about Violeta's art and the design, too. I'm going to go lay all three books out and do some color study now! Thank you so much--this sharing of A ROCK CAN BE... is itself a gift.

    1. Thank, thank you Laura for commenting and visiting my blog. This book and the other two are a trio of treasures. I love them so much. I hope you enjoyed looking at the color themes. And you are welcome. We are all so fortunate to have you giving us new perspectives on those things we need to cherish.