Quote of the Month

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

Friday, December 21, 2018

Solstice Soul

After several days of above normal temperatures replacing a covering of white with the green of grass, Mother Nature clapped her hands, exerting her power.  Snow has been gently falling all day.  A winter weather advisory is in effect for counties in the northern section of the lower peninsula of Michigan.  A gale warning is issued for the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  It is a celebration of the winter solstice 2018.

There is a hush outside only broken by gusts of wind.  The mournful howl of a coyote sounds from the nearby woods.  Breaths of air in the chill are like puffs of smoke.  Winter Is Here (Greenwillow Books, HarperCollinsPublishers, October 30, 2018) written by Kevin Henkes with illustrations by Laura Dronzek is a companion title to their other books, When Spring Comes and In the Middle of FallIt's a lyrical representation of winter's elements with charming illustrations.

Winter is here.
It's everywhere.

Look up and see it drift down.  It lands on houses and their roofs.  Trees, shrubs and grass are dusted in layers.

The wind pushes winter into every nook and cranny.  Sometimes it does all this is silence.  Sometimes it does all this in clear hardness.  At night it shakes your home in fury.

You can't simply walk outside in the presence of winter.  You must don extra clothing from head to toe.  If you decide to stay indoors, winter is there too.  Look around you.  See it on frosty windows and your dog's fur.

Winter changes colors, mixing gray and white and bitter blue in the dead of a zero-degree night.  Winter stays whether it is welcome or not.  Then it surprises us, bowing out to allow a burst of new life.

With polished expertise Kevin Henkes selects words to depict winter.  Winter and snow are synonymous in the first two sentences with a series of seven verbs describing precisely how snow moves and stays.  The pace is slowed when soft and hard are contrasted.  It pauses when winter wear is listed in a zippy sentence.  Each portion of the season is portrayed like a poem within a poem.  Here is a passage.

Winter comes without a sound . . .
and it comes with many.

The wind howls in every language
and the windows rattle.

Rendered in acrylic paints the full-color, delightful, playful and sometimes eloquent artwork begins on the matching and opened dust jacket and book case.  On the front illustrator Laura Dronzek displays with warmhearted realism the complete joy of a dog in fresh, deep falling snow.  The cardinal couple supply vibrant color in this chilly setting.

To the left, on the back, the snowy background continues.  Within a framed circle a snowman sits.  A curious squirrel is perched on his head.

The opening and closing endpapers lead us into winter and into spring.  On the first brightly-hued mittens tumble among snowflakes on a blue background.  A sunny yellow canvas is used to present a pattern of butterflies and purple and pink blossoms on the second set.  The endpaper designs continue on the next and previous pages respectively.  The cardinal pair are perched on a branch above the dedication.

Laura Dronzek alternates between double-page pictures and full page images bordered in large white frames.  For the purpose of enhancing the narrative sometimes several smaller illustrations are grouped on single pages.  These create an illustrative cadence.

Every image is worthy of framing.  The boy and his dog are frequently present as are the cardinals.  Other animals seen in an urban setting are also shown; rabbits and squirrels.  Careful readers will notice one illustration is connected to the next.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  We are viewing the scene as if we are standing outside.  On the left a leafless tree extends off the page.  Nearby are several evergreen trees.  As our eyes move to the right, we are close to the boy's home.  Looking in the window we see him petting his dog.  From the second-floor window a white cat looks outside.  Everything is heavily coated in snow as it falls.  Two rabbits, two squirrels and the cardinals are present.

This book, Winter Is Here written by Kevin Henkes with illustrations by Laura Dronzek, is a seasonal gem.  You will most definitely want to use it in a study on winter or the seasons.  It presents all aspects of this time of rest.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Kevin Henkes and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At the publisher's website there are other resources available.  There is a teaching guide and activities.

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