Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

In Good Company

Every day whether we step outside or open a window or a door, as soon as the fresh air hits our faces we are the recipients of an offering, freely given.  This soft gentle breeze, the trees, evergreen and deciduous, the plants and flowers of the forests and fields and all the animal dwelling therein are a part of the richness our planet provides for us.  With every breath we take, we are at the center of an astounding swirl of inter-connected activity.

In 2012 author Elin Kelsey collaborated with artist Soyeon Kim in their first title, You Are Stardust, exploring our deep connections with nature. Their second title, Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking (Owlkids Books, April 14, 2015), asks readers to look to nature for the best kind of problem solving by freeing our imaginations.  You Are Never Alone (Owlkids Books, April 15, 2019) by Elin Kelsey with artwork by Soyeon Kim is a hopeful and appreciative tribute to our Earth.

Every moment
this beautiful planet
showers you with gifts.

Above ground rain falls from clouds and plants produce oxygen.  Below ground creepers and crawlers break the dirt apart so everything grows better.  Bees during the day and bats during the night, pollinate plants supplying us with food.  From the oceans, elements enhance things we eat; algae are used in ice cream.

When wild weather descends our planet protects.  Mangrove trees assist in the prevention of mud slides.  Kelp in underwater forests ease the effects of huge waves.  Every tree contributes to guarding us and this planet by offering shelter and shade.

Teeny, tiny living things, on the inside and outside of our bodies ensure our safety and health.  What is broken in nature can be repaired.  There is a resilience like that of our bodies.  There are items in nature which can heal.  For those loving to play or work in the dirt, it yields components which helps our brains work better.

Did you know there is a chain between whales, salmon, bears, and trees?  These largest creatures on our planet are essential to many forms of life, including humans.  Let us not forget how our lives benefit from our dogs and cats.  We need the solace they bring.  We are always in the embrace of our Earth.

Beginning with the first sentence written by Elin Kelseywe are assured line by line of the care furnished to us by every living breathing thing regardless of its size, shape or place of residence.  Elin Kelsey explores many places; above and below the ground, oceans, seas and rivers and even our bodies to acquaint us with wondrous happenings every single day.  Her word choices read like poetry but are based in scientific fact.  Here is a passage.

You always have company.

Armies of microorganisms
snuggle against your skin,
keeping germs at bay.

Your face is home
to wee little cleaning mites
who evolved from mites that lived
on the faces of your relatives.

It's hard not to gasp when you look at the front and the back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Each image is created by Soyeon Kim from three-dimensional dioramas which are photographed.  These exquisite works of art blend realism and fantasy.  We think nothing of seeing a child climbing a tree to ride a huge bird or kelp and a fish sharing the same setting.

To the left, on the back, an entire diorama is shown.  It's a view of a forest blending into a neighborhood.  If you flip over the open dust jacket, seven dioramas are on display for readers.  We are asked how the dioramas are connected.  We are challenged to find them in the body of the book.

The opening and closing endpapers are a dark teal.  On the initial title page, we see a whale diving into a hillside near two houses.  In the foreground a child and a bear peek around bushes.  On the verso and formal title pages, a whale breaches from left to right with another child riding on the tip.

Joyous children are embedded in every two-page illustration, walking on tree branches as an enlarged elk (caribou) watches them from the tree top.  A fox joins them on another branch.  A little girl rides a ground beetle underground as another little girl rides a bat at twilight. Girls and a boy, wearing their clothes wander among sea creatures, kelp and a whale.  You are compelled to pause at every page turn to notice each intricate item.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is an underwater scene.  A deep blue canvas showcases the brilliant gathering of vivid plants and animals.  It's like looking at a brand-new box of crayons.  A child moves into three different positions.  You know she could stay there all day and not see the same thing twice.  Will readers notice the change in her body?

You can't help but feel a sense of calm move from your head to your toes when reading You Are Never Alone written by Elin Kelsey with illustrations by Soyeon Kim.  This title comforts readers as well as inspiring them to cheer for our environment and its inhabitants.  It is a timely title for Earth Day celebrated this year on April 22nd.  Perhaps it will also promote a discussion of The Nature Conservancy's plan to plant one billion trees.  I highly recommend this title and the two previous titles by this collaborative team for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Elin Kelsey has an account on Twitter.  Soyeon Kim has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you have access to interior images, a teacher's guide and two videos by the illustrator and author talking about this book.  Soyeon Kim explains in detail about her illustrative process.  It is time-consuming but fascinating.  Elin Kelsey teaches us about the science behind her words.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson highlights this title.  Soyeon Kim shares a lot about her process.

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