Early this morning looking up and out the large sliding glass door to the backyard, the sight of two tiny fawns with two adults left me breathless. The color of their coats against the green is striking this time of year. The older deer were enjoying the sweet taste of fresh grass tinged with morning dew. Scampering and eating, oblivious to any possible danger, the little ones were marvelous to watch.
The wild reminds us multiple times each day of their closeness to us. It is a welcome reminder. It is a necessary reminder. We share this planet and there is a place for every living thing on it. Heartbeat (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, June 12, 2018) written and illustrated by Evan Turk tells us about two voices and a single song.
heart . . .
beat . . .
One heart beats.
This heart resides inside an adult whale. Soon it is joined by the gentle cadence of an unborn calf's heart. After its birth the two swim together with their hearts beating together. They raise their voices in a single song.
The ocean is theirs until it isn't. The mother is slain. Now one heart beats in complete solitude. The calf sings a single song.
The mother (and too many like her) are taken from the seas to be used by humans for light, machines, and weapons in two wars. Ten times ten decades pass. A single beating heart bears witness.
Ten times ten decades pass once more. A single whale with a single heartbeat continues to sing a single song. There is a child, a human child. This girl hears. At last two beating hearts are united creating a chorus to sing one memorable melody.
When Evan Turk writes, we lean in and listen. He chooses his words well. His text is spare but charged with emotion. By repeating the words heartbeat, heart, beat and song we become entwined in this story. When he enumerates the words ocean, song, body, light, machine, war, gun, bomb, mouth, life and year, he brings us deeper into this saga. Toward the end his use of one over and over leads us with gentle tension building to a hopeful conclusion. Here are two of those five phrases.
One planet, one song.
One message across the cosmic ocean.
The dust jacket, completely varnished with the text on the front raised and rich in color, reaches out and embraces the reader. We are caught in the movement of ocean, whales, beating hearts and song from the right, across the spine and to the left. On the book case the beating heart is enlarged to become the canvas for the title, Heartbeat. The opening and closing endpapers are a deep soft black.
Beneath Evan Turk's name on the title page, the title is written in chalk or crayon, white on an array of color. It's as if we are looking at the universe. Then we turn to the first two words, one on the left and the other on the right, framing the heart.
Rendered in pastel and charcoal on black paper, collage, and tracing paper most of the illustrations span two pages. We feel an immediate connection which only strengthens picture by picture. Deep hues of blue color the underwater scenes. The newborn is shown in shades of red beside its mother. After her death the young whale and older whale are white and black on black.
During the portion of the story in speaking about humans and their use of whales most of the color is absent, signifying a dark time for whales and for us. With the introduction of the girl, drawn in white and filled with purple, hope returns. So does the vibrant color palette.
One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page. It is of the child on the boat after she hears the whale's song. It is a close-up of her. She is surrounded by black with threads of gentle whorls, the notes of the song. Head bowed and eyes closed, both of her hands are placed over her heart which is glowing yellow. The contrast of purple, black and yellow is gorgeous.
Moving, truthful and timelier than ever Heartbeat written and illustrated by Evan Turk is a call for us to protect and preserve. It is one book with one story about what millions can do. This beautiful title belongs on all professional and personal bookshelves.
To learn more about Evan Turk and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. Evan's blog is located here. To view interior images please visit the publisher's website. Enjoy the book trailer and an additional video with music and Evan's exquisite illustrations.
Update: Evan and this title are highlighted at Let's Talk Picture Books by Mel Schuit on June 5, 2018. There's loads of process art and a peek at his 2019 book, You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks.