Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Three Is A Company

Finding and being a true friend takes time.  It's a form of harmony composed of give and take, compromise and compassion.  When a duo becomes a trio, finding an equilibrium can be a little bit trickier.  Sometimes one of the three feels out of the loop, as the other two appear to be closer.  When everything is in sync though, a friendship formed by three is a thing of beauty.

The girl who charmed her way into our collective hearts has returned in a third title.  Garnering a Caldecott Honor medal in 2014 Flora and the Flamingo was followed by the second book, Flora and the Penguin in autumn of the same year.  Conceived and illustrated by Molly Idle Flora and the Peacocks (Chronicle Books, May 3, 2016) finds two companions vying for the attention and affection of the dancer.  As in the two previous titles this is a story told without words.  

On the title page the tale unfolds as an extended arm on the left, holding an open fan, reaches toward the text.  On the right two peacocks in repose fan their feathers to create an identical half-circle shape.  With a page turn Flora is standing in a crossed ballet pose fan open in front of her face.  Readers are invited to lower the flaps.  Flora is looking at the peacocks.  They are gazing at each other.  

Flora greets and bows to these graceful, gorgeous avian creatures as they look at her with mixed curiosity.  One appears to be more open to meeting her than the other.  That one looks at her with definite indifference.  As Flora and the first peacock discover similarities, the other hides, head bowed, feathers spread.

Wanting to include the second bird, Flora moves over; her body movements suggestive of kindness.  The first peacock is certainly not happy about the attention given to the other bird, stalking over to its pal in anger.  A staring match erupts in a tug-of-war with Flora's fan.  OH NO!

The fan, Flora's visual connection to the peacocks and a part of her formal attire is torn in half.  She looks at them holding the damaged fan, drops the pieces and walks away.  Staring at the fan and then each other, the peacocks pick up a half.  Distraught over the loss of her possession and the potential for new feathered friends, Flora, knees to her chest, sits with her head on her crossed arms.  

In an act of considerable cleverness the peacocks in unison approach Flora.  Their efforts ignite a transformation.  Blossomed birds are held together by warmth and tenderness.

The matching dust jacket and book case in a trio of colors, introduce readers to Flora and her new acquaintances.  With a flourish and splendor equal to theirs, Flora bows to them in greeting.  The oval framed in yellow peacock feathers is replicated on the back.  Flora and the first peacock are admiring one another within a circle of white. The yellow of the feathers on the jacket and case provides a canvas for the opening and closing endpapers. 

Rendered in colored pencils the illustrations throughout are breathtaking in their exquisite elegance.  Heavy, matte-finished paper in a soft white provides the perfect background for the colorful characters.  Delicate tendrils of leaves, like willows, drop down across the top of the pages.  

A series of flaps discloses the express emotions of Flora and each of the peacocks.  We willingly participate in this dance of friendship dictating the pace.  Every line, every hue of the limited color palette, every delightful detail (the raised eyebrows, the eyes, the mouths and beaks, the birds' head and body feathers and all body postures) and every flap and fold are pieces performing in this rich and rare production. 

Every single page turn depicts pure noble eloquence.  One of my favorite illustrations spanning two pages is of Flora stretched across the gutter reaching toward the second peacock.  Molly Idle has placed a flap on each peacock.  We can, by opening and closing them, see how the act of friendship is growing.  At this point both birds are equally curious about Flora, her intentions and how they feel about each other.  

This third title with Flora and her bird ballet buddies is simply marvelous.  Flora and the Peacocks created by Molly Idle will wrap around you like a symphony weaving its way into your heart.  It, along with Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin, are a trio to treasure.  True friendship will always find a balance.

If you desire to learn more about Molly Idle and her other books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  The publishers have made an activity kit to accompany this title.  Teacher librarian and a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee, Travis Jonker, reveals the cover to this book on his blog, 100 Scope Notes.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher, premieres the book trailer on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  In this post he includes an earlier interview with Molly Idle.  At Art of the Picture Book Molly Idle is interviewed.  Teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner chats with Molly Idle at All The Wonders, Episode 253.  Enjoy the extra video from the publishers.

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