Warm temperatures and rain have hastened the departure of more than six inches of snow left by a series of daily snow showers and several storms. Heated by sunlight bouncing off the siding on the house and the white fence outlining the yard, some of the grass is greener and growing. If this trend continues tulip bulbs planted in the fall will start to push through the dirt in a few weeks.
Lots of tender loving care is necessary to shield them from the local deer that see them as delicacies. Often new life needs more protection than is offered by Mother Nature. The Digger And The Flower (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 23, 2018) written and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler tells the story of a machine that discovers a calling far more important than that for which he is designed.
It was morning and the big trucks were ready to work.
Each of them had an important job to do; hoisting, pushing and digging. Crane, Dozer and Digger worked to make buildings, roads and bridges. They did not stop until a whistle blew. Crane and Dozer rested but something captured Digger's attention.
Amid the remains of their efforts was a bit of blue and green. It was an exquisite little flower. During the following days Crane and Dozer continued their construction projects but Digger went to the flower. Whatever this tender tiny plant needed, Digger provided it; even bedtime lullabies.
Time passed. Every space was filled with buildings, roads and bridges except where the now-grown flower resided. One day Crane and Dozer arrived determined to move forward in their progress. Before Digger knew what was happening Dozer revved his engine and moved.
After Crane and Dozer left, Digger, through his tears, saw something on the ground. He carried them in his scoop traveling until as far as the eye could see were green hills and valleys. Then Digger did what Digger did best.
The text is spare but powerful through the carefully chosen words of Joseph Kuefler. A flawless blend of narrative and dialogue draws readers into the tale through combinations of three, a storytelling cadence. There are three machines doing three separate tasks and creating three kinds of structures. When Digger cares for the exquisite little bit of blue and green, he performs three acts of love. Here are three sentences.
He had found something in the rubble.
"Hello there," he said.
The flower was tiny, but it was beautiful.
Readers are introduced to the limited color palette used by Joseph Kuefler on the matching dust jacket and book case. From the left, the back, and over the spine the background is the golden yellow used for Digger. Angling from left to right are black tread marks. The texture of the slight impression on the sides and down the middle of the marks is carried to the front as a canvas for the title text, Digger and the flower.
The opening and closing endpapers are displayed in golden yellow. Opposite the verso and dedication page, still in the golden yellow, on a crisp white background beneath the title text is the tiny green and blue flower. Each page turn reveals a double-page picture rendered in variations of black on white with the golden yellow of Digger, the red of Crane and the orange of Dozer. Exceptions are several single-page illustrations and two visuals on a page to contribute to the pacing. Once we are acquainted with the flower, blue and green become synonymous with a world not created by machines.
The balance in the use of these colors depicts emotional points in the story. When Digger leaves the city, on the left of a two-page picture, amid the shades of black in the city structures is a yellow flag on the top of a domed roof, an orange door on one home and the small bit of red on a mailbox in front of another house. There is a marvelous symmetry in the lines and shapes employed by Joseph Kuefler in his buildings, roads and bridges which allows readers to become as attached to the flower as Digger is. We have compassion and an identical desire to preserve.
One of my many favorite illustrations is for the three quoted sentences. In this image we are brought close to Digger and the flower. Digger occupies nearly the entire left side of the page with the arm of his scoop disappearing at the top left and reappearing on the top right. It extends down to shelter the tiny plant on its right. It's a defining moment in the story and this picture asks us to pause.
In a word The Digger And The Flower written and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler is about hope. If each of us can commit to protecting a small portion of our world, what will happen if all those small portions are combined? It's compassion turned into action. Your professional and personal collections will be highly enhanced by including a copy of this title.
To discover more about Joseph Kuefler and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. He has a page dedicated to this title with narrative and additional illustrations. Joseph also has an account on Instagram. At the publisher's website you can view interior images. Here is a link to two activity pages. Joseph was recently interviewed at Mile High Reading, blog of Dylan Teut, director for the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska and at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read. Please take a few moments to become better acquainted with Joseph and his work through these excellent chats. Enjoy the book trailer.