Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

All The Hues Of . . .

The air is crisp and a cool breeze stirs the remaining leaves on the trees.  The brilliance of the sky as the sun lights up the colored leaves is breathtaking.  It's a welcome respite after weeks of rain with more predicted for this evening. My canine companion nearly pranced with joy during our morning walk.  Nothing is more appreciated than that which has been missing.

Without our realizing it, the absence of blue was affecting us.  Blue adds balance to the other colors. Blue (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 25, 2018) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger as a companion to her Green, a Caldecott Honor book, not only explores blue as a color but as a poignant expression of emotion.

baby blue

berry blue

Each of the sixteen two word verses, parts of a poetic narrative, connects us to our own life moments and those depicted in the double-page pictures.  Page turn by page turn we watch and understand as two hearts are made whole by the presence of the other.  As they grow so does our compassion.

We sigh with affection at the first image of a puppy and small child sleeping head to head.  A small light blue blanket/scarf connects them as a paw rests on the left and a tiny hand holds it on the right.  A slightly older puppy is pulled in a red wagon by the boy after an afternoon of blueberry picking.  A filled basket sits next to the dog.  We know the duo is already inseparable.

A small boy's artwork with puppy paw prints running across wet paint, a ball bobbing on white-tipped waves and two tired souls sleeping next to each other on the boy's bed draw us deeper into their shared experiences.  A shift occurs midway through the story with

my blue.

A boy's possession now becomes a possession of the dog.

Day by day, season by season, the pair is shown together inside and outside.  They silently snuggle, they joyously laugh, they lovingly offer shelter and trek side by side from adventure to adventure.   In one of the final verses we are prepared for the inevitable.  This is followed by a deeply moving portrait and words signifying a bond which even death cannot break.  We are reminded from sadness hope finds a way to give us

new blue.

With her evocative language Laura Vaccaro Seeger takes us on a journey of love and remembrance.  We have seen or enjoyed tender moments with a puppy.  It's pure peace.  We have watched a dog chase flying butterflies in their blue beauty.  It's merriment to store away.  We have walked through snow on a bitter cold day ready to play with our canine companion.  It's wonderful anticipation.

With her rhyming words Laura Vaccaro Seeger invites us to participate in this sensory passage of time.  We willingly go because we know her words, like those of all great storytellers, will leave our hearts whole.  Blue creates harmony.

The opened and matching dust jacket and book case call out to us.  Like in life, there are numerous shades of blue.  Each one is attached to an item or emotion.  On the jacket the title text is raised.  The opening and closing endpapers are a pale, sky blue and introduce the narrative with a title page and close the book with the dedication (Cooper, a Seeger beloved dog) and publication information.

Rendered in acrylic paint on canvas each double-page image is a window and a door.  It's as if we are watching our own reflections and are being beckoned to join the dog and his boy.  Laura Vaccaro Seeger shifts her point of view in the illustrations.

We are so close to the puppy and baby we can imagine hearing their gentle breathing as they sleep.  In this visual the color choices and brush strokes are softer.  In the following scene after the blueberry picking, on the left the berries and leaves fill the page in a close-up representation.  On the right the puppy in the wagon with the boy pulling him are in the background.  The palette is bolder and vibrant as are the lines, shadows and light.  Each turn of page will have you gasping in appreciation for the use of perspective.

The dog and boy are never more than an arm's length from each other.  They are usually featured next to each other.  Readers will also notice the placement of the treasured possession in almost all of the illustrations.  This is highly significant.  As in her other work, the use of die-cuts is masterful.  The meticulous positioning of each ties us to the next illustration as well as the previous picture.  Scattered blueberries are part of a child's painting and they in turn become paw prints.  Paw prints are highlighted by a grassy field but become part of a butterfly's wing.  Drawer knobs are part of a book but change to illustrations in another book.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the dog and boy are walking in the winter.  Nearly everything is covered in layers of white.  The technique Laura Vaccaro Seeger uses to present this effect is a mix of light and heavy applications of paint.  A large tree on the left crosses the gutter to the right.  Beneath its branches the duo walks.  Hanging from this branch on the left is a bird feeder.  Perched on the feeder is a cardinal.  The boy's sled is a well-worn red. He is wearing red boots, mittens and a hat with a red hooded sweatshirt beneath his dark blue coat.  From the leash his dog walks beside him.  The boy leans toward the dog.  The dog is looking at his boy.  The dog is wearing a light blue scarf.

Rarely does a book supply readers with a truthful, meaningful and hopeful account of the companionship between a dog and a human.  Blue, beautifully written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, does this.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  This is one of two other books, Bone Dog written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann and The Rough Patch written and illustrated by Brian Lies, which I believe respectfully and with deep affection understands this is a relationship which never ends.  Memories are forever.

To learn more about Laura Vaccaro Seeger and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At a publisher's website you can view interior images.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features Blue and Laura Vaccaro Seeger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Laura talks about her process and shares loads of artwork.  You might want to have some tissues handy before viewing this book trailer.  (My wild child, two-year old chocolate Labrador might be wondering why she's getting lots of extra hugs today.)

Mulan is wondering if she should sleep or
get ready for her next adventure.

Sleep wins.

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