Quote of the Month

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Among The Leaves

There are companions, steadfast companions, who never speak a word to us.  However, we rely on them to anchor us.  They are the best listeners on this planet.  We speak to the wind, to celestial beings like the moon and stars, to wildlife, birds and to trees.

For many of us, during our lives, there are trees with memorable significance.  They are located on our property, planted for a purpose, in a park we regularly frequent or a special space we visit only when we are able.  Poetree (Dial Books for Young Readers), March 19, 2019) written by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds with illustrations by Shahrzad Maydani is about one of those extraordinary trees.

The snow had melted, the buttercups were blooming, and Sylvia celebrated winter's end by writing a poem about spring.

Sylvia, carrying her poem, and her pup, Shel, stroll to their park.  Once there it is recited to a friendly squirrel.  Before they go, Sylvia ties it to a large birch tree hoping someone else will enjoy her poem.

Walking by the tree on her way to school the next day, Sylvia is surprised to see her poem is gone and replaced with a new poem.  The tree wrote her a poem!  She can hardly focus in her classroom.  When her teacher speaks to her, another boy, Walt, sitting behind her, teases her.

When Ms. Oliver teaches them to write haiku in the afternoon, Sylvia writes about her tree, the poet.  She makes an origami shape from her poem, leaving it at the tree on her way home.  Day and night, thoughts of the tree and their poems consume her.  A spoken poem, signed with an air signature, and a surprise await Sylvia the next morning.

In her joy at the surprise, Sylvia responds but her happiness is short-lived when Shel begins to bark.  Several more unexpected happenings leave Sylvia changed.  Poetry at the Poetree is a rare and wondrous experience for everyone.

Readers will feel connected to the words written by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds.  We are uplifted by the celebration of spring, poetry, compassion and friendship.  The story offers a balanced blend of narrative, poems and dialogue.  Each sentence reflects warmth and gratitude through descriptive words, sometimes employing alliteration.  Here is a passage and a poem.

Sylvia looked up and saw fragments of sky
peeking through the treetop.  She spoke the
words as they blossomed into her mind:

Sky so blue, grass so green.
Tree so tall in between.
Favorite friend in morning light.
And under moon glow late at night.

When readers gaze at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, the splendor of the tree and the surprise found there are revealed.  The tree's truck extends along the spine with a big "y" at the top as branches spreading to the left, back, and the right, front provide a leafy umbrella.  On the front we are introduced to Sylvia and Shel and the charming birds who enjoy the shelter of the tree.

To the left, on the back, the friendly squirrel peers out of a hollow in the tree's trunk.  He watches several birds, one of which is perched on a decorative ISBN.  It is here on the front and back of the jacket and case, we are invited into the story through the soft color palette and delicate details.

On the opening and closing endpapers, in golden yellow, flying birds and leaves are etched in white.  Rendered using graphite pencil and watercolor, Shahrzad Maydani uses double-page pictures and full-page images to enhance the narrative.  The liberal use of white becomes an element in all the illustrations.

Readers will pause fascinated by the fine lines and intricate elements.  The pattern of leaves on Sylvia's leggings are found in the tree.  These leaf shapes are also found in notebook paper, fluttering on more than one page.  The facial features on all the characters are absolutely charming.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  On the left, on the small hill, Sylvia, eyes closed, is hugging the tree.  Along the lower-left hand corner is a portion of the poem she has written in chalk on the sidewalk.  Shel is barking next to her.  On the right a flock of pastel-colored birds rise from leaves along the bottom.  A couple of them cross the gutter to the left.  Something is about to change.

In reading Poetree written by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds with illustrations by Shahrzad Maydani we are reminded of the simple but profound beauty of this form of the written word.  It connects us to nature and the most unexpected of friendships.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Shauna LaVoy Reynolds and Shahrzad Maydani, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Shauna LaVoy Reynolds has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Shahrzad Maydani has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  Author Shauna LaVoy Reynolds is showcased at KidLit411.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson, highlights artwork by Shahrzad Maydani from this book on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before BreakfastShe also has an interview at Chapter 16 with author Shauna LaVoy Reynolds.

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