Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

It Couldn't Be Better

You wake up realizing you got a full night's rest for the first time in weeks.  As you step outside your car shortly after sunrise to walk in the park with your canine companion, there's not a whiff of a breeze.  The sun, beaming from a crystal blue sky, is warming the frost-tipped leaves on the ground.  Canadian geese are honking in the distance as a mallard and his mate float down the river on a swift current.

About a quarter mile into your walk you round a corner at the bottom of a hill.  Standing in the road ahead is a young doe.  She curiously watches you coax your stubborn puppy with treats.  Your dog has no idea the deer is present and sits without moving.  You can hardly keep from laughing out loud.

This day, while still young, has all the beginnings of being perfect.  Is it a combination of things or a single thing which makes a day perfect for you?  Accomplished author illustrator Lane Smith delivers perfection with a twist in his newest title, A Perfect Day (Roaring Brook Press, February 14, 2017).

The warmth of the sun...
felt good on Cat's back.

The daffodils were blooming in the garden where Cat lounged.  This cat enjoyed the heat, the fragrance and the comfort of being in her private outdoor parlor.  Dog had other ideas.

His human, Bert, knew exactly what made him happiest.  Keeping cool was achieved by sitting in a kiddie pool filled with water. Bert was keeping busy today.

He made Chickadee sing out a song.  Although Chickadee sent out no invitation Squirrel tried to partake of her treat but a clever contraption foiled the attempts.  A cob of corn was kindly dropped for the creature.  All was well in Bert's backyard.

Wait a minute!  What's a bear doing there?  Each animal wild and domestic skedaddled for shelter as the rambling bulk barged from one previously blissful spot to the next.  The perception of perfection has shifted.

A gentle rhythm is established with the introduction of each element, sun, water, birdseed and corncob, followed by an appreciative animal.  Lane Smith elaborates on the reason they find these simple pleasures so comforting with one, two or four short sentences.  These sentences are a reflection of the personality of each animal.

Each portion is closed with the same sentence except for the final word.  When Bear enters it is a change in the inflection of the same single verb which alters the entire tone of the story.  This supplies pure, perfect...yes perfect...pacing and humor.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case, the texture of the elements in the image which extends front to back, right to left, and the body posture of the bear with eyes closed and nose extended to the flower, present a sense of total bliss.  At this point readers have no indication as to the events leading to this vision of a perfect day.  These muted, earth-tone colors are used throughout the title by Lane Smith. The opening and closing endpapers are a rich, golden yellow.

Heavy, matte-finished paper provides a most excellent surface for the mixed-media artwork; a blend of loose black lines, hues and painting techniques inviting you to reach out and touch the pages.  Smith alters his picture sizes, extending some page edge to page edge across two pages, and others one and a half pages, leaving a column of white (cream) space on the left for balance and the introduction of the repeating text.

This allows for further impact when Bear is introduced.  As he steps from the left into the wordless illustration we know a HUGE change is happening.  All the remaining images with Bear are two-page pictures.  These in turn create the masterful opportunity for the final page visual.  It's like the close of a movie when the outside fades to focus on a circular scene.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is of Bear in the garden.  The background is a colorful array of flowers.  In the lower, right-hand corner we get a glimpse of Cat scampering out of the way.  Bear is on his back, all four arms spread out at his sides.  They are moving as if he is making a "snow angel".

Have you decided yet what makes a day perfect for you?  You might even define it differently depending on circumstances from the past, present or even an imagined future.  After reading A Perfect Day written and illustrated by Lane Smith you will most certainly agree a day can turn completely around with the unexpected presence of an unwelcome being.  A bear can have that effect.  Of course, if you are the bear the day might be the best one yet.  Be sure to share this book with everyone you can, as often as you can.  It's wonderful!

To learn more about Lane Smith and his other work, please follow the links attached to his name to access his website and blog.  The blog is old but contains some earlier illustrations.  To see several interior images from this book please go to the publisher's website.  There is also a fun-filled activity kit.

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