Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Summer Gold

Two meals were consumed today on the gray, weathered steps of a wrap-around porch on the front of a large log home.  It was like being a turtle on a log soaking up the spring sunshine beneath a startling cloudless blue sky.  A chorus of chickadees supplied a cheery song from the nearby woods.  Clusters of daffodils scattered on the front lawn nodded in the wisp of breeze.  The promise of summer was in the air.

The work of insects is beginning but their jobs will start in earnest when all the buds burst forth with blossoms.  One of the most welcome sounds is the familiar buzz of bees as they gather nectar.  To see, touch, smell and taste Mother Nature's ambrosia is sheer heaven.  Honey (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 27, 2018) written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is a delightful complement to the first title, Leaves, featuring Bear.

It was his second year.
"I'm back!" he said.

After his long winter nap, Bear was hungry.  As he was looking for a meal or even a snack, his mind thought of honey.  Every single aspect of honey, every descriptive phrase, floated through his conscience.  He had to have honey!

Peering in the hole in the honey tree yielded no results.  It was not time for honey.  As he tried to banish honey from his immediate attention, it seemed as if everything reminded him of it.  He ran to look at the tree one more time.  No honey.

The heat of summer warmed his world.  Storms crashed in and out.  He remembered how much he enjoyed the rain.  It felt wonderful.  He checked the tree again.  No honey.  And this time he paid the price of sticking his nose into an active hive.

To find relief from the heat he played and relaxed in a pond and a waterfall.  The days of the summer season were passing.  One day Bear heard a glorious sound. He could not get to that tree fast enough.  There was HONEY!  All the sensations associated with this sweetness returned. One grateful bear was filled with joy, memories and of course, honey.

A cadence as sweet as honey is supplied by the word choices of David Ezra Stein.  We completely understand Bear's desire for honey.  Everything in his world reminds him of its deliciousness.  David builds anticipation with the repetition of the word honey and

But it was too soon for honey.

His introduction of other summer activities assist Bear in temporarily forgetting about the liquid gold.  We gladly share these moments with Bear who finds joy in all he does.  Here is the passage describing rain.

With a rush came the rain.
He had forgotten how good a rain could be.

It splattered on his head
and shivered down his back.

The magic associated with seeing a familiar face on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is going to have every reader smiling.  The curiosity on Bear's face watching the bees buzz around the honey tree is like us watching a pot of water come to a boiling point. The title is varnished and raised for emphasis.  The loose lines and soft watercolor washes are signature David Ezra Stein.

To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white is a small interior image beneath the words:

Celebrate the gifts of the seasons with Bear!

Praise for Leaves (5) follows.  The blue shown on the front becomes the color on the opening and closing endpapers.  An island, Bear's home, is shown on the title page.  Spring is pushing through the remaining mounds of snow.  On the verso page we move in closer to the top of the island.

David continues using a crisp white background for all of his illustrations rendered using a bamboo pen, watercolors, and a hint of white acrylic.  Most of his images appear on a single page; some with a loose frame and others with no frame.  His two-page pictures are sure to have readers smiling at the way Bear embraces his life.  You can't help but fall in love with Bear through the portrayals of his daily adventures.  His body postures and facial expressions are full of merriment and completely up-lifting.

One of my many favorite images is when Bear is remembering all the excellence of honey.  In this particular single page picture he is seated in a tree in full bloom.  He has plucked a flower, admiring its smell.  David Ezra Stein has a variety of shades of pink, orange, red, yellow and green embracing Bear.  Three bees are buzzing around the blossoms.  It's as if Bear has sunk within a feather bed.  The words beneath this visual, reading like poetry, are:

spicy, aromatic,
sparkling with sunlight--- 

For a theme or discussion about the seasons, summer, bears, honey or appreciation for the natural world, I highly recommend Honey written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein.  David's depictions of Bear will find a place in your heart.  His words will have you reaching for the nearest jar of honey and longing just a little bit more for the soothing days of summer.  I hope you will place a copy of this in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Ezra Stein and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David has a lot of extras at his website as well as a link to his Facebook page. At the publisher's website you can view a single interior image.  David is interviewed at The Children's Book Review regarding this book.

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