Quote of the Month

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Silent Beauty

Waking up to a fresh, first blanket of snow is exhilarating.  No one enjoys it more than a puppy.  Their stops, nose to the ground, followed by quick starts and hops along with full-blown running in circles enlivens the heart of any individual.  They are soaking up this gift from Mother Nature and expressing their gratitude in ways we humans can never replicate.

Even more enchanting is to witness a living being experience the first snowfall of their lives. All their senses awaken to it. Hoot and Peep:  A Song for Snow (Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, November 14, 2017) written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a charming blend of anticipation and the value of patience.

It was Peep's first winter,
and she cuddled close to
her big brother, Hoot.

There was a chill in the air; the kind of chill signaling the arrival of snow.  Peep thought snow was a she.  Hoot explained it was a thing.

Peep, full of questions, wanted to know what sound snow made.  Was it like rain, wind or falling leaves?  Hoot had a hard time replying because he was as young as Peep when he first heard snow.  Its melody was too faint for him to remember.

Hoot was content to wait calmly for snow.  Peep was too excited to perch and ponder.  She flew off to search for it.  Squirrel was as new to the world as Peep and he had not seen snow either.  He did offer Peep his song.

Without any fanfare snow came, flake by flake.  Peep, Squirrel and a little mouse companion sat watching in wonder.  Peep swooped back to join Hoot.  Wisdom was appreciated.  Playful tunes were sung until dawn's first light.

The conversations between this older brother and baby sister endear these two characters to readers.  The simple innocence of Peep and the insights offered by Hoot will resonate with readers and listeners alike.  Lita Judge in this title (in all her titles) finds a way to express with her words a needed gentleness and a thoughtful way at looking at our world.  Lively humor is found in the voicing of sounds by Peep in contrast to Hoot's soft Hooo.  Here is a passage.

"Rain falls from the sky," said Peep.
"Does snow drop, ploppety splop,
like the rain's song?" 

When you look at the matching opened dust jacket and book case, the happiness exhibited by the owl siblings and their mouse friend spills outward filling your heart with warmth.  You also wish you could fly to their starred roost and join them.  Everything but the soft background is varnished.  The title text is raised to our touch. To the left, on the back, Peep tosses snowballs at Hoot as they stand in a courtyard of trees dressed in soft drifts.

The opening and closing endpapers are a very pale blue with exquisite snowflakes floating across the pages.  On the title page Peep, Hoot and the mouse are looking directly at us from the top of a tall shrub shining with Christmas lights as the snow falls.  Here and throughout the book, with her flair for choosing a color palette, the background lifts the characters forward without diminishing its nature.

Rendered in watercolors with a few digital finishing touches these pictures literally glow.  Lita Judge includes lights in windows, tiny lights on the starry tower top, lighted shop window displays, street lamps, Italian lights strung in park trees and Christmas lights woven into the decorative garden.  The images either span two pages, a single page, a page and a half or portions of a single page to enhance the narrative's pacing.  They are loosely framed with elements occasionally leaving the border.

The brush strokes for the birds' feathers, the tufting around the mouse's ears and Squirrel's tail invite you to reach out and touch the pages.  The large eyes full of emotional expression connect us to the characters.  They draw us into their experiences.

So many of these illustrations are favorites.  One beautiful picture spans two pages.  Hoot is leading the way through a city street to the best place to wait for snow.  Peep is following with the little mouse riding on her back.  They are flying by a pastry shop.  All shapes and sizes of delectable desserts are on display in the window.  Large circular peppermint candies hang from the awning.  A mobile of toys sways as they pass.  The name of the shop is fashioned into a metal sign with an attached lamp.  Oh, to have been there when they passed!

Without a doubt readers who enjoyed the first title Hoot and Peep (students were singing the sounds during a read aloud) will find themselves loving Hoot and Peep:  A Song for Snow written and illustrated by Lita Judge.  This uplifting story of an once-in-a-lifetime event is told with words and art which convey pure magic.  Children will ask for this story repeatedly.  Soon they will have the sounds memorized.  I recommend this for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Lita Judge, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She has a short video there about the creation of an image for this book.  If you click on Inside this book you can view five interior illustrations including several favorites of mine.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page and a portion of the first picture. If you follow this link you'll discover two pages from the book to color courtesy of the publishers.  Lita Judge has been a guest at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast several times, herehere and here.  Lita Judge is interviewed at Great! Storybook.

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