Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It Is Sufficient

Each decade of our lives can be viewed as a milestone.  We set goals and have dreams.  Some of them are realized; others take more time to reach.  We come to understand the journey is often more important than arriving at a destination.

We weigh the value in having what we need as opposed to what we want.  If we are fortunate we learn earlier rather than later, those things we prize most usually don't have the largest monetary worth.  The Cat From Hunger Mountain (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, November 15, 2016) written and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner and two time Caldecott Honor winner Ed Young is a story where we shadow an individual who lacks for nothing except for a true vision of the world.

Once on Hunger Mountain, there lived a wealthy lord who had everything imaginable, yet never had enough.

His home was the highest of any on the mountain constructed by the best builders.  His clothing was unsurpassed in beauty and fabric. Skilled hunters brought him the finest meats which were prepared by the most talented culinary experts.

His greed was so excessive; he had no concept of the need to consume all his food when served.  The rice grown on Hunger Mountain was the finest in the land washed by the lord's servants in the Great River.  The workers could never work fast enough harvesting and washing the rice.

One year a drought struck.  All the crops perished without water.  The lord did not notice.  When the drought persisted a second year, the people left Hunger Mountain.  Even though everyone was gone, the lord stayed unwilling to leave his acquired wealth.

Eventually the lord was starving.  Over great distances he wandered in search of food.  Two similar travelers directed him to a special person in a special place.  Upon his arrival at the head of a line, the lord asked a question.  The answer left him stunned.

With simple, spare text the tale is told by the masterful Ed Young.  No word is wasted; each contributing and building toward a stunning revelation.  We are the listeners and he is the weaver of words.  Dialogue is built into the narrative to give us a more personal experience.  Here is a passage.

When Lord Cat's servants asked if their master had finished his meal, they were scolded.
"Are you blind?  Can't you see that the bowl is half-empty?  Take it away."

Exquisite paper collage invites readers to read this story when viewing the front of the dust jacket.  The silhouette of the cat, bowl lifted to the ladle, is a hint of events to come.  Over the spine to the left, on the back, a light cream paper is the background for torn paper water.

The book case replicates the ornate spine seen on the jacket.  A textured, silver gray paper is used for the canvas on the back and front.  On the right of the opened case, the cat image outline is embossed into the paper.

A golden brown, a darker shade of the tones on the dust jacket front, covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page the jacket and case spine paper frames the text.  A quote is placed above a larger visual of the torn paper water opposite the verso page.

All of the interior illustrations span two pages in glorious depictions of the journey the Lord Cat takes toward a life lesson.  In the first one a small tree is placed in the Lord Cat's room.  Intricate lattice work fills a window.  His clothing here and in all the pictures is a lavish blend of texture and color.

The portrayal of his tailor as a peacock, builders as rats (mice), his hunters as falcons, pandas as his servants and the wise generous person as a turtle clearly place this tale as a fable.  The papers selected for each animal depict their physical characteristics as well as their roles in this story.  One facial expression in particular will take your breath away.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is of the Lord Cat directing a worker on the building of his pagoda.  You can see in the distance, far below, the outlines of the rice paddies on the left and for a portion of the page on the right.  The Lord Cat is reaching upward as he speaks to the rat (mouse) worker.  His paw and claw are highlighted against a full moon.  To the left the building rises, bundles of bamboo against the sides.

You can fully understand why The Cat From Hunger Mountain written and illustrated by Ed Young is selected as one of the ten titles on The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2016.  The eloquent images provide stunning enhancement to the well-told story.  This book asks readers to read it over and over and over again noticing all the details.  This is one title you need to read.

To learn more about Ed Young and his other work take a few minutes to visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  Ed Young is The Society of Illustrators' recipient for the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award (Contemporary).  Other works by and illustrated by Ed Young on this blog are The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China, Nighttime Ninja written by Barbara DaCosta, and A Strange Place To Call Home:  The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home written by Marilyn Singer.

Enjoy seeing the book case courtesy of a tweet by John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read.

1 comment:

  1. Ed Young's illustrations are always amazing and eye-catching. I cannot wait to read this one too!!