Quote of the Month

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Place To Rest

When the leaves fell from the trees, there it was.  It's no bigger than the size of a golf ball.  Through the cold, rain, thunder, lightning, sleet, snow and wind, it has endured.  It's so secure; you can almost imagine it as a part of the branches which hold it.

Out of habit, I look every single day to make sure it's still there, wondering about the parents who crafted it so well.  I think of other questions.  What kind of birds lived there?  Did all the babies fly away?  Will any of the birds come back?  You Nest Here With Me (Boyd Mills Press, an imprint of Highlights, March 3, 2015) written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple with illustrations by Melissa Sweet is a soothing lullaby of birds and their homes.

My little nestling, time for bed.
Climb inside, you sleepyhead.

A mother snuggles next to her daughter, telling her their nest is wherever

there's you and me.

She reads to her the same story we hold in our hands.  She speaks of pigeons and catbirds living in the city, finding a space to rest on buildings or in shrubs.  Near the edge of water, small wrens weave a refuge.

In the tip-top of firs in a forest or among towering cliffs along the sea, birds safeguard their young.  Tree trunk hollows and below ground burrows are homes.  Even telephone poles provide a place to reside.

Hidden among the cattails, coots are secure.  Nestled among branches, sparrows prefer to be high and dry.  Attached to human structures, swallows shape shelters.  Sunken in sand near the water's edge, plovers place their eggs.

Eagles soar, cowbirds give up and killdeer pretend to protect.  As surely as nests are made up or down, on, in or around the best location by those winged wonders, this mother assures her child of a secure sanctuary.  This nest is her place to grow and rest.

If you seek slumber, the words of Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple are certain to supply peace.  When read aloud, they create a form of music, light and gentle.  The rhymes glide like feathers on the wind.

After each bird and their nesting place are introduced, the same refrain follows.

But you nest here with me.  

Those words hug us, surrounding the reader and listener with affection.  Here is a sample passage.

Some owls nest in oak tree boles,
Some down in abandoned holes,
Hawks may nest on telephone poles,
But you nest here with me.

As soon as I saw the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, without reading the fine print, I knew whose name I would see as illustrator.  The attention given to the smallest detail, the layering of mixed media, the use of authentic and appropriate materials, watercolor and gouache all point to the skill of Melissa Sweet.  The letters of the title made of wood pieces, a nest woven of branches, grass, and leaves framing the sleeping child holding her toy owl and the mother watching her nestlings in their nest placed on a night-sky blue background are her signature style.  To the left, on the back, a single enlarged leaf is placed on the same canvas.  On the opening and closing endpapers, the predominant green on that leaf covers them both.

A two page illustration, worthy of framing, holds the title page information.  On the left a hole in a birch tree holds a tiny bird.  Watching, the mother, a nuthatch, is perched on a branch which extends from the right edge almost to the tree.  Between this branch and a cluster of leaves at the top of the right page is the title text made with twigs.

Although our eyes are initially drawn to the focus of the image, when we look a second time all the smallest elements blend to make a superb picture.  In the child's room drawings of birds hang on the walls.  Outside her window we see birds flying, and a variety of them eating at a feeder.

All the birds and their nests are portrayed realistically.  Each habitat features other flora and fauna appropriate to the area.  Sweet chooses to alter her illustration size from single pages to double pages to enhance the pacing.  To tie the jacket and case to the interior, the central items, the large leaf and nest, are used to splendid effect in the final pages.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is a single page featuring swallows.  The mother has adhered the nest to a beam in a barn.  Five babies are peeking over the top as she looks inside at them.  Beneath this piece of wood is a window.  Outside we see a dog at rest gazing toward a flock of sheep in a pasture.  A garden is growing in front of the field near the home.  These perspectives by Sweet are tranquil and true.

I can't think of a better bedtime story which flawlessly illuminates readers and listeners about birds and their nests than You Nest Here With Me written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple with illustrations by Melissa Sweet. Reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a cozy comforter.  You will want to add this title to your personal and professional collections.  At the close of the book is a column on the left side of two pages for an Author's Note.  Further details about the fourteen birds highlighted in the narrative appear to the right.  There are four extra pieces of information about each.

Please visit the websites of the authors and illustrator by following the links attached to their names.  They are as individual and interesting as the people themselves.  Author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi featured Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple on her blog Inkygirl.com with lengthy three question interviews.

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