Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Season, New Life, New Challenges

It's here!  Today (March 20, 2018) is officially the first day of spring.  It's hard to believe it when you look at the National Weather Service map picturing a nasty winter storm for the east coast or when you recently return home from walking your dog through ice and snow in northern Michigan.  Mother Nature does things in her own time.

It's as if she is the maestro standing in front of the members of a great symphony orchestra.  As soon as she lifts her baton, everything begins anew.  I'm a Duck (Candlewick Press, March 13, 2018) written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Will Hillenbrand follows a newborn uncomfortable with what should come naturally.

When I was just an egg, I'm told,
I left my nest and rolled and rolled.

The wayward egg splashed right into the pond.  Mother duck wasted not a second and dove into the water.  Once nestled in the nest again, the egg, in due time, cracked and revealed one of four baby ducks.

Unlike its siblings this duck did not want to swim in the pond or lake.  No amount of encouragement from its three brothers convinced the frightened creature to join them.  Drowning was a very real worry.

Friendly Big Frog made it very clear the fearful youngster simply needed to get in the water as quickly as possible.  Owl's advice was similar.

" . . .You're a duck.  Use common sense
and try to get some confidence."

Perhaps this duck needed to ease into the water.  Puddle practice and an understanding mother certainly helped but the water terrified this little being.  A friend offered a helping hand but a determined spirit made another decision.  New wondrous sounds rang out over the pond.

With the heart of a child and the wisdom of an ancient mentor, Eve Bunting reveals profound truths in the words she writes in each and every story.  In this book, her most recent release, with a soothing rhythm of rhyming phrases, focus is directed at a fear but solutions are lovingly offered.  By giving the duck the role of narrator, readers can identify more intimately with the challenge and rejoice in the resolution.  Here is a four-line passage.

The pond is waiting there below.
It's whispering, "Come on!  Let's go."
But even though I'm well prepared.
I'm really, really, really scared.

Within the soft hues of blue, green, yellow and brown readers are introduced to the duck.  The quiet setting of the pond shown on the front and back of the matching dust jacket and book case sets the tone for the entire book.  Who can resist loving this adorable child?  With the curve of a wing, the set of webbed feet, large dark eyes and a bill easily conveying emotion, we find ourselves drawn to his story.

A darker shade of his downy feathers covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The initial title page begins the story with an egg splashing and sinking into the pond.  On a background of crisp white the same image as shown on the front of the jacket and case is replicated beneath the text on the formal title page.

Most of the illustrations rendered by Will Hillenbrand using mixed media span two pages. They shift from peaceful panoramic water settings to close-ups of the duck in a variety of scenarios.  Each picture, regardless of the time of day, creates a sense of calm even in the noisier moments.  Each choice by Will Hillenbrand, the color palette, the elements in each image, his use of materials and his lines and details contributes to enhancing the words of Eve Bunting.

One of my many favorite illustrations covers two pages.  It accompanies the text already noted.  From left to right a pale cream canvas extends.  On the far right edge reeds fill the upper corner.  Beneath them the pond is placed from the right, across the gutter and into the lower right corner on the left side.  The duck is standing on the edge of the shore, looking at its reflection.  This visual, like all of them in this title, is brimming with charm.

Winsome in words and pictures, I'm a Duck written by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Will Hillenbrand is certain to resonate with readers of all ages.  Who among us has not been afraid to do one important thing?  With the encouragement and love of family and friends, the impossible becomes a reality.  This title would work wonderfully with the themes of courage, spring or ducks.  I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Will Hillenbrand, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  An older video interview of Eve Bunting at Reading Rockets provides background information.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At this publisher's website you can see some of the first pages in the book.  In this video Will Hillenbrand chats about his process for this title.

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