Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Witnessing Winter

Last night the only supermoon of 2017 provided a treat for skygazers.  Shortly before 11:00 pm portions of a huge ring around this moon could be seen in southern Michigan.  This usually means a storm is coming.  It's already sweeping across the northern and western regions of the Midwest.  Winter storm and blizzard warnings are being issued as wild winds, heavy snow and bitter temperatures rage through the region.

With a fifteen to twenty degree temperature drop here between Monday and Tuesday, winter is assuredly arriving.  Snow Scene (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, November 7, 2017) written by Richard Jackson with pictures by Laura Vaccaro Seeger encourages readers to become keen observers of seasonal shifts.  Every time we step outside Mother Nature supplies hints for us.

What are these?

An unseen narrator, our guide throughout this narrative, directs our attention to specific elements or small pieces of particular items in the surrounding scene.  First we are asked to look closely at tall study columns of white and black.  By stepping back we can see they are trees, birch trees.

To our right dark forms move on the snow.  Feathers fluff and glossy bodies glide.  They gather near another riddle.  It's stretching from a sturdy truck.  A coating which crackles in the slightest breeze covers it.

Now children walk in the woods.  Both the girl and the boy carry clues of the season as part of their current physical characteristics.  They have spent hours in the wintry weather creating other snowy companions.  A setting sun and days ahead yield more evidence of the passage of time.

A landscape bare except for white soon shows us bits of fresh life poking through the snow.  A different form of precipitation, lush floral vistas and the awakening of animal families mark first one and then another season's arrival.  If we lift our eyes and watch, mountain peaks herald the cycle beginning anew.

No phrase is longer than five words; most of them are only two words.  With this simple, limited use of language Richard Jackson takes readers on a seasonal, sensory journey.  In the form of questions, he asks us to discover the world in which we walk.  This query and response, the noticed indications, technique provides a rhythm as subtle and gentle as the transformations from month to month.  The rhyming words at the end of these phrases supply readers with possible answers. Here are some phrases.

And those?
Of crows.

Caldecott honoree (twice) and Theodore Geisel honoree (twice) Laura Vaccaro Seeger's remarkable artwork is evident on the opened, matching dust jacket and book case.  The bright colors and texture in the elements welcome readers as participates in the story.  The snowman on the front, right, extends over the spine to the back, left.  Behind him a small grove of trees lift into the clear blue sky.  No space is wasted in this title.

The opening endpapers feature a two-page picture of a snow-shower sky with flakes drifting down.  On the far right a birch tree provides a border.  To the left of the trunk is the text for the title page.  With a page turn the first of each two-page illustration rendered in acrylic paint on canvas begins a visual interpretation.  The closing endpapers, a wash of golden yellow, is a background for the publication information.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger takes us close to a particular object and then asks us to step farther back to reveal the secret.  A few strands of hair disclose a girl building a snowman, her hair sprinkled in snow.  Dressed in winter garb, she's talking and smiling as she works.  A deer walking off a page on the right changes into a frosty nighttime vista, a blend of the woods and a home in the country.  The same deer from the previous page watches the house, windows aglow with light.

With infinite care, Laura includes tiny elements from one image in the following illustration.  What appears on the right edge is extended to the left edge with a page turn.  A row of fence opens to another nearby landscape. A field of daisies leads to a rabbit running.  An eagle perched on an outcrop takes us to a mountain top.

One particular image of several favorite pictures is of the two snowmen.  On the left the one made by the girl fills the entire page.  We see a portion of his head and body including his eyes, mouth, carrot nose, red and white, striped scarf and row of buttons.  With a change in perspective, across the gutter, the snowman made by the boy is seen in its entirety.  He is wearing a red and yellow, striped scarf and a black top hat. Two stick arms extend from his body.  The boy is behind him putting some finishing touches on his body. In a darkening sky, snowflakes are falling.  Along the bottom, on the right of the picture, footprints are shown.

Snow Scene written by Richard Jackson with pictures by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a lively look at our world.  Puzzles generate and welcome reader involvement.  Two masters collaborate to deliver this worthy gem.  This is a wonderful explanation of the change in the seasons.  I can see additional activities inside and outside asking children to observe and then write about what they have seen.  You will want to add this title to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Laura Vaccaro Seeger and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view five interior pictures.  At Bookology there is an interesting interview with Richard Jackson.  Several years ago Laura Vaccaro Seeger is interviewed at Publishers Weekly.

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