Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Extraordinary Walk Through Ordinary

When a dog has chosen to make their home with you, it affords you marvelous opportunities.  You find yourself outside in the early hours of the morning and at the very late hours of night.  As you walk through your neighborhood at these times, when more people are inside rather than outside, sights otherwise concealed during daylight are revealed.

The windows of a home are much like the eyes of an individual, a way to see the everyday essence which makes it uniquely unlike any other space.   Windows (Candlewick Press, October 10, 2017) written by Julia Denos with illustrations by E. B. Goodale pays homage to the calm felt when strolling through a neighborhood as evening falls.  It's like walking through a library filled with stories.

At the end of the day, before the town goes to sleep, you can look out your window . . .

As the lights turn on inside the houses, they signal a familiar accepted pattern, like fireflies calling to other fireflies.  They convey a feeling of security.  Sometimes you will see other creatures, domestic and wild venturing out into the half-light turning into night.  Are they watching the lights in windows begin to glow, too?

The size of the windows, curtains open and curtains closed, are a reflection of the inhabitants.  You might be privy to conversations, parental affection and learning.  Some people may be sitting down to eat their supper.  Some people may be relaxing in their living rooms.

Not every house will have windows warm with light.  There is usually one residence completely dark.  No one lives there but you can pretend, letting your imagination create occupants.

Of all the windows you see as you wander along well-known paths, there is one which welcomes you with more warmth than the others.  You find comfort in the knowledge of who is inside.  You are home.

As one phrase connects to the next in this story it's like listening to melodic lines in a lullaby.  As soon as you read the first sentence written by Julia Denos you are aware of a certain peace of mind arriving, dictated by a particular sameness as darkness descends.  It's Julia's ability to take the ordinary, enhancing it to extraordinary, that gives this story its beauty.  She singles out specific moments, taking nothing for granted but exhibiting gratitude for all.  Here is another sentence.

You might pass a cat
or an early raccoon
taking a bath
in squares of yellow light.

As you look at the opened dust jacket, the multilayered, setting sun sky is in perfect harmony with the light glowing in the windows.  These windows are varnished on the street scene extending over the spine to the left edge, the back, of the jacket.  The tree branches are like black lace.  The darkened blue in varying shades of the buildings, sidewalk and street complement the natural and artifical light.  The spot of red on the boy's jacket and the white dog fur and white text of the title blend with the surrounding color but also announce the beginning of something wonderful.

On the book case from edge to edge is the multilayered, setting sun sky, singular in its beauty.  On the opening and closing endpapers it's as if we are standing on one of the rooftops looking across the landscape created by the other roofs.  The sun is low in the sky, barely above the treetops on the opening endpapers.  Men are working on one of the roofs.  There are a few lights on already.  A group of pigeons are flying in from the right.  On the closing endpapers night has fallen.  A full moon is in the sky.  The pigeons are roosting on one of the roofs.  Lights are glowing in all the buildings.

Rendered in ink, watercolor, letterpress, and digital collage by debut picture book illustrator E. B. Goodale all images except for those on four pages span from page edge to page edge across two pages.  All of the elements, the details, are intentional.  They tell stories; the Brazilian soccer ball in the boy's home, the heart-patterned blanket hanging on a clothes line, the raccoon snacking on an apple core, the air-conditioner running in a window, and the three bird cages seen in a single room.

As the boy walks the colors of the sky behind the buildings deepen indicating the passage of time.  E. B. Goodale shifts her perspective several times, bringing us closer to a particular scene before giving us a more expansive view again.  White space is used to great effect twice to emphasize the text and to ask us to pause.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  On the left and on the right are single family homes with fenced-in yards.  Their designs are very different; one is more traditional with flower-filled window boxes.  The other is more contemporary with a circular window and a flat roof.  In the center of the picture the boy and his dog have stopped at a stone-paved area, marked by several low pillars with chains between them.  Two trees have been planted behind them like an entrance.  A dog park shows dogs running with their humans nearby.  Behind this is a silhouette of homes and then the red, orange and yellow sky.

It would be easy to imagine this title, Windows written by Julia Denos with illustrations by E. B. Goodale, as one read every night to lull gals and guys to sleep.  It is a brilliant and stunning look at the close of day amid a single neighborhood.  There is a timeless quality to the words and illustrations.  It gives readers the marvelous sense of everything is right with the world.  We need this book.

By following the links attached to the names of Julia Denos and E. B. White you can learn more about them and their work.  At both Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press you can view interior illustrations.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., the cover is revealed.  You will enjoy the conversation there with both Julia and Emily.  Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, highlights this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  It is one of the titles being discussed at Calling Caldecott.  Windows is also featured at School Library Journal, The Classroom Bookshelf.  Enjoy the videos.

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