Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Animal Observations And The Music of Language

Early this morning fog and clouds shrouded the mountains as snow fell.  Walking from one room to another something caught my attention; a shadow moved behind the shades still down over the window and door opening to the back deck.  The small tree (Xena's tree) was still lit and twinkling.

It was a large doe moving as lightly as the falling flakes.  In search of food she got through the snow and ate what grass she could find.  I know when spring and summer come she will try to enjoy my gardens.  It will be a challenge as we share the same space but today she was beautiful. 

Author illustrator Julie Paschkis combines her notable skills, her acquired love of the Spanish language and perceptions of the animal world in her newest title. Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems, Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales (Henry Holt and Company, August 18, 2015) is a harmonious tribute to the beauty of written and spoken words.  It seeks and finds joy.

through the grass
the sinuous snake
is writing
a slippery poem
with his body. ...

La Serpiente
por la hierba
la serpient sinuosa
esta escribiendo
un poema resbaloso
con su cuerpo.

Fourteen animals and fourteen poems, each in English and in Spanish, feature characteristics, imagine possibilities, describe moments, and pose questions.  It's not usual to think of snakes as authors but it does make a kind of sense when you wonder about the marks they leave behind.  We know the turtle's shell is a portable home but there might be other treasures carried too.

As a heron takes flight a picture alters.  Even on a rainy day a single crow manages to find a bit of sparkle.  A cat sleeping and awake can explore named points apart on our world.  A field is not a field to a cow but a ready restaurant.  Do the dogs wag their tails or does sheer jubilation?

A tiny fly, a flashy parrot and a silent deer feast, demand and peer.  Perhaps they will travel to watch sea giants waltz with waves.  A haunting hoot pierces the dark as moths and fireflies seek and give light.  Under and on water fish weave a lullaby.

From every place on our planet the familiar become extraordinary as Julie Paschkis uses language like a magician makes magic.  Onomatopoeia, repetition, rhyming and free verse in English are mirrored in the elegance of the Spanish translation.  She has the ability to see beyond the obvious and make us gasp in admiration at her perspectives.  Here is another sample portion.

The moon is a lantern
in the branches.
A shimmer.

A shadow whistles
through the grass.
A whisper.

El Buho
La luna es un farol
en las ramas.

Silba una sambra
por las hierbas.
Un susurro.

Rendered in Winsor & Newton gouache on Arches paper all the illustrations throughout are as stunning as the two on the front and back of the dust jacket.  The earth tones on black are a gorgeous pairing.  On the back, to the left, a male deer, a buck, is looking directly at us from among the trees.  As you will note letters and words in English and Spanish are blended into the illustrations.  This adds a creative, innovative dimension to each image.  The book case is identical to the interior illustration of the heron.  A grass green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Some of the elements from the dust jacket appear on the title page.

All of the visuals span edge to edge across two pages.  Intricate details invite you to pause at each picture.  Sometimes Julie Paschkis draws us directly into the presence of the animal.  Other times we move back and see them within a larger landscape.  Her color palette varies in relationship to the animal and the time of day.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the poem Dog.  Among a swirl of yellow flowers and leaves red balls bounce.  On each side a furry brown dog jumps in joy.  The words bump, bounce, abound, red, ruff and ready and tonto, junto, juego, pronto, redondo, rojo, ojo and rebote appear on the leaves and balls.

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis is a cheerful frolic among animals, wild and domestic.  I highly recommend this title for reading aloud in either or both languages.  In an author's note, in English and Spanish, Julie Paschkis tells us these poems were first written in Spanish, then English.  Don't wait until National Poetry Month, use this all year long for writing, a study of languages or animals.

To enjoy learning more about Julie Paschkis and her other books please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  If you visit the publisher's website you can view eight interior images.  They are absolutely lovely.  Julie Paschkis was a guest at Jama Rattigan's blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup.  You will enjoy the additional illustrations and the interview.

While some might argue the use of this title for the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy, the use of two languages and animals plus the classification is enough for me.  Please visit the blog to see the other books selected by other bloggers this week.


  1. This book is beautiful and I love the use of two languages. I have been known to stretch the definition of NF to be more informational in nature. :-)

    1. I agree on the beauty of this book and the two languages read aloud are amazing. Thanks for understanding my stretch of the definition. ☺