Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Featured Feathered Friends

Away from the sights and noise of a city, in the early morning or early evening if you pause and listen, a springtime symphony swirls about you.  For some reason, perhaps due to the length and bitter cold of this winter, the sounds are even sweeter this year.  Now, inside my home, as the sun sets low on the horizon I can hear them calling to one another.

If you watch them, even in passing, they hop and stop to pick up bits of food or materials for nests.  The way they flit, float and fly using the air along with their feathers is astonishing.  Beautiful Birds (Flying Eye Books, March 1, 2015) written by Jean Roussen with illustrations by Emmanuelle Walker is a gorgeous book expressing gratitude for these winged marvels.

A is for albatross, the admiral of the skies.

With the alphabet as a guide, letter by letter, thirty-nine birds are named in rhyming couplets.  Familiar and fascinating, exotic and extraordinary, all are depicted in individual graphic portraits.  They may be featured in natural habitats, as part of a design, interacting with humans or with man-made objects.

Bee-eaters open wide for a buzzing breakfast.  Doves are released to promote peace.  Finches pose on fence posts.  Hummingbirds sip nectar as their wings beat.

The tropics are called home by the jacana.  Watch out for the crocodile!  New Zealand supplies sanctuary for two flightless birds whose names begin with K.  Can you name them?  One brilliant in color and the other rather plain, most of these couples call Japan their island retreat.

Nuthatches make cubbies in trees.  Fruit-snacking orioles return over and over.  Quail with their crowns are hard to miss.  Swallows dive and swans glide.  The staccato beat of a woodpecker announces their presence.  From A to Z it's a bird jamboree.

In reading each verse crafted by Jean Roussen we are aware of snippets of information, some subtle, embedded in each measured rhyme.  Techniques such as metaphor, alliteration, and precise word choices give us hints as to the birds' characteristics and habitats.  These details are enough enticement for us to linger, look and want to know more.  Here is a sample couplet.

C is for cranes,
both whooping and
C is for cockatoos, crests abound. 

Upon first holding the book case (there is no dust jacket) you are aware of the smooth, matte-finished texture along with the neon color on the spine, title text and small frame on the back.  The striking array of birds in their brilliant plumage along with tiny eggs of varying size will have you searching the nearest identification tool.  The canvas for the opening and closing endpapers is the vivid florescent hue.  On the first we see a pattern of eggs.  Only one is open with a speech balloon coming from the chick's mouth announcing

This book belongs to:  

On the second all the eggs are open with babies from a variety of birds peeking out.

The design and layout of this title is absolutely stunning.  With only a few exceptions each page is an individual image.  The albatrosses are flying in a pattern along with airplanes high in the sky on a gray background with evenly spaced white parallel lines.  We then shift to leafy boughs with bee-eaters, beaks open and bees buzzing around them.  When cockatoos are mentioned Emmanuelle Walker takes us close to the birds, giving us a look at the range in feather color.  For the letter D the same background color is used for two opposite pages but what is happening in each is different.  In a masterful move the tail feathers on a flying duck on the right blend with the front of a dove on the left.

Fine lines, expressive actions, and a full, bright color palette elevate the text and fully engage the reader.  Bits of thinking "outside the box" appear; the lark's singing ability is amplified by placing one in the spotlight perched on top of an On The Air microphone.  Exemplary attention to detail can be found.  The v shape for that letter, showing geese in formation, is accentuated by a hand glider following behind the birds.  On the following page the birch tree branches form a matching inverted v.

One of my favorite illustrations (It's nearly impossible to pick only one.) is of the mandarin ducks.  Shades of green water with ripple lines are patterned with fallen rich red and green leaves.  A male and female swim together in quiet solitude.  He is resting and she is awake.

Beautiful Birds written by Jean Roussen with illustrations by Emmanuelle Walker is exactly as the title suggests, a beautiful exploration in poetic phrases and splendiferous art of birds.  You are going to want a copy for your personal and professional shelves.  Children are going to look at this book over and over again.  It provides the perfect opportunity for seeking out more information about each bird.  Please read it aloud.

For more information about Emmanuelle Walker follow the link attached to her name to visit her website.  If you visit the publisher's website you can view multiple images of the book case and interior images.

Flying Eye Books | Beautiful Birds - Book Trailer from Emmanuelle Walker on Vimeo.

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