Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Seeking The Soul Of The Season

If you are asked to name your favorite part of the Christmas season, what is your answer?  Also, what one word best describes what Christmas means to you?  Like many things in life it is to be expected our replies would be a reflection of our age, experiences and current circumstances.  Maybe our responses would be different from one year to the next. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the preparations for the events attached to the celebration, we never truly pause to reflect on either of these questions.  Our time is completely occupied with the cooking and baking, the decorating, the sending of Christmas cards and selecting the gifts to be given.  In Finding Christmas (Albert Whitman & Company, October 1, 2017) written by Lezlie Evans with pictures by Yee Von Chan, three friends find themselves in an unexpected situation with life-changing results.

The Little Burrow was nearly ready for Christmas.

Hare was singing carols at the top of his voice as he placed decorations on the tree.  Squirrel was placing finishing touches on freshly baked cookies.  Mouse was leaving their home.  She still had to find the perfect present for Hare.

It seemed like Mouse had barely left the house when she returned deeply agitated.  She needed their help immediately.  Squirrel and Hare followed her through the snowy woods until they came to a swallow lying on the ground, a thin blanket of snow covering her.  The three carried the ill bird back to their Little Burrow.

Placing her close to the fire covered in blankets was not helping.  She did not move.  Hare had an idea.  He gave Squirrel his gift.  Squirrel was puzzled and did not want to open it yet, but Hare insisted.  Inside was Squirrel's favorite thing.  He understood it would help the swallow.

Next Squirrel gave Mouse her gift to open.  Inside was an item surely meant to keep the chill of winter from reaching her.  She understood it would help the swallow.  All night long the trio tended the swallow.

When Christmas morning arrived Hare, Squirrel and Mouse were talking about their gifts for each other.  Mouse, of course, was sad she had no gift for Hare.  As the light of a new day filled The Little Burrow, something else was carried on the air.  Hare did have a gift from Mouse.

With her storytelling skills author Lezlie Evans takes readers into the heartwarming relationship of the three friends within the first six sentences.  As the story continues we come to understand how much their affection is for each other by their gifts.  We also realize their true character in their willingness to give to another in greater need.  The repetition of a single phrase strengthens our knowledge of this.  Here is a passage before Mouse's sudden return.

As Squirrel pulled the last batch of cookies from the
oven, Hare hit a high note.
"Could you tone it down a bit?" asked Squirrel.  Hare
had been singing at the top of his lungs all morning.
"But music's my favorite part of Christmas," said Hare.
"Music helps bring the Christmas spirit."
Though tomorrow was December 25th, it didn't feel
like Christmas yet. 

The charm of a woodland setting and the three friends who dwell within its surroundings are immediately felt by readers who look at the matching, opened dust jacket and book case.  The blue-gray background with snowflakes provides an ideal canvas for the windows into the warmth of The Little Burrow.  Delicate, intricate details in each setting and in the leaves, berries and nuts framing each of them contribute to the overall enchantment.  To the left, on the back, again framed in holly leaves and berries, a red ribbon, ferns, berries, pine boughs, oak leaves and acorns, Mouse, Squirrel and Hare are doing their best to awaken the swallow and keep her warm.

A muted forest green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page readers are given a view of The Little Burrow as if we came upon it in the woods.  Snow is mounded over the rounded roof.  Light glows in the windows on either side of the circular door.  Smoke drifts upward from the chimney.  Trees frame the home.

Illustrator Yee Von Chan invites us into the world of these woodland creatures with two-page pictures, single page pictures, edge to edge and single page images in loose circular or oval shapes.  She alters the perspective to heighten the mood of the narrative.  Her fine lines and exquisite elements remind us elegance is found in the simple things.  Readers will notice she includes two other birds in several illustrations; each of them is wearing a scarf to maintain their warmth in winter.

One of my many favorite illustrations takes us close to The Little Burrow.  We are looking inside it on Christmas Eve along with two birds who are perched on the window ledge.  The window covers nearly two pages, framed in snow and the outside of the home.  Through the window we can see Hare loading a log on the fire, Squirrel feeding tea to the swallow, placed on a rug and covered in blankets, and Mouse offering a comforting touch.  A part of their Christmas tree, table with a plate of cookies and stove are visible.  A tray with a tea pot and cups is on the floor near the swallow.  We are looking at love.

Through the words of Lezlie Evans and the artwork of Yee Von Chan Finding Christmas is an engaging and heartfelt story of the best this season brings.  It is a gentle reminder to follow the Golden Rule, to choose compassion, whenever the opportunity presents itself to us.  You will want to add this title to your professional and personal collections. 

To discover more about Lezlie Evans and Yee Von Chan and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Here is a link to the advent calendar Lezlie Evans recommends creating in her interview for the book trailer premiere at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  Lezlie Evans is interviewed about this book and her work at the Albert Whitman Blog  She is also interviewed about this title and her process at Picture Book Playlist.  At Yee Von Chan's website she lists the other social media connections she has in which you can see her work.  She has another website called Whimsy Whimsical.

No comments:

Post a Comment