Quote of the Month

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Walk In A Wintry Wood

While the rest of the residents are close to ending their day or already sleeping, we take a final walk.  Our breath looks like puffs of smoke in the frigid air.  The snow-covered ground, bushes and trees help to blanket the night in silence.  Our senses soak in all this season of winter has to offer us.

As we move down the well-worn path, we pause wondering if there are others enjoying the majesty of this moment when the world is cloaked in contrasting black and white.  Bear and Wolf (Enchanted Lion Books, February 2018) written and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri brings readers into a winter's night in the woods.  Normally avoiding each other out of mutual respect and as competitors for food, two young animals meet.

It was a windless night and glowing snowflakes fell through the trees deep in the forest.

A bear is walking through the snow in this forest when something catches her attention.  At the same time a wolf strolling through the falling flakes in these woods notices something.  The young bear and the young wolf move closer, stop and stare.  Their noses inhale the scent of each other.

As they converse it becomes apparent neither is lost but they are out to take pleasure in their surroundings.  Deciding to walk together they move in silence.  They are keenly aware of all the night and the season has to reveal.  At one point they pause.  No two snowflakes are alike.

A night bird soars above the quiet companions.  She sees two shapes wandering through the snow.  Resting on a branch she sees it's a bear and a wolf . . . together.  Bear and Wolf move past Bird without a sound.

The duo comes to a large clear area, a lake frozen by the seasonal temperatures.  When Bear moves some snow aside, they can see snoozing fish drifting.  All too soon Bear says she has to return to her den to sleep with her family.  Wolf says he has to go to hunt with his pack.  This is a winter walk both will remember.  Time moves into spring with wishes uttered on a winter walk coming true.

As soon as we read the first sentence written by Daniel Salmieri we are there in the snowy forest with Bear. His word choices create a sensory scene in our minds.  The use of repetition in portions of the narrative forms a pleasing pacing and a soothing storytelling rhythm.  Here is a passage.

Bear and Wolf walked through the quietly falling snow,
using their eyes, and ears, and noses to take in the snowy woods.
They both had thick, warm fur that covered their whole bodies.
They were creatures made to be comfortable in the very cold.

One of the initial things you notice upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case is the texture of both.  The dust jacket is of sturdy stock.  When you remove the dust jacket you can see the interior is colored in black and white.  Is it a star-studded sky or snow falling in a darkened forest?  It's full of magical possibilities.  The symmetry of Bear's and Wolf's heads on the front conveys the connection of the two during this shared experience.  The book case has the feel of fabric.

To the left, on the back, is a snowy landscape with two sets of footprints side-by-side extending from the bottom toward the top.  On the opening endpapers on a charcoal gray background are large splotches of white, pale blue, and pale purple.  It's as if we've moved close to the falling snow.  Fields of grass waving in a breeze cover the closing endpapers.

The title page is black with the text in white.  A page turn takes us into the forest with three trees bare of leaves stretching upward and their trunks placed from left to right, the second in the gutter.  Between the arch of the second and third trees is the dedication.

All of the illustrations span two pages.  Each atmospheric setting brings us further into the story.  In the first image we are experiencing it from Bear's perspective.  In the next, we are one with Wolf.  In the third we are observers.  This point of view shifts throughout the story.  It brings us close to the characters or gives us a panoramic spread.  Two of the pictures are wordless but speak volumes.

The technique employed by Daniel Salmieri is textured and soft.  His lines and layers appeal to our senses.  Many of the pictures ask us to pause and enjoy the moment with the characters.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Bear and Wolf agree to continue their walk together.  The partial trunks of two trees frame the left and right of the picture.  A third tree truck extends from the left through the gutter to the right.  More of the trunk is on the right.  In the space between those trunks are smaller trees, falling snow and a landscape shaded in blues and purples.  In the first one on the left Wolf and Bear are walking away from us into the forest.

If you seek a deep sense of calm and the wonder and surprises nature can offer, Bear and Wolf, the debut title written and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, is a perfect book for you.  It will be a much requested read aloud whether one-on-one or with a group.  It is an excellent selection for wolf or bear themes, nature and seasonal appreciation or seeking peace and quiet.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Daniel Salmieri and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Daniel maintains an account on Instagram. On Mackin Books In Bloom Daniel has written a guest post.  UPDATE:  Teacher librarian Travis Jonker premieres the book trailer on his blog, 100 Scope Notes, December 3, 2018.

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