Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

New Spring, New Life

You usually hear them before you see them. As one of the oldest living bird species, the call seems nearly out of place and time.  As you lift your head and scan the skies, you seek a unique silhouette.  There is apt to be a wing span of six to seven feet, graceful long legs trail behind the body.

If you are fortunate, they can be seen forging in fields or gliding across a watery expanse.  Hello, I'm Here (Candlewick Press, March 20, 2019) written by Helen Frost with photography by Rick Lieder is the most recent collaboration by these outstanding artists.  It's a poetic and visual portrait of a sandhill crane's entry into the world.

It's getting crowded 
inside this egg.

The voice of an unborn sandhill crane chick speaks directly with fervent truth.  It's hard to move any body parts when you've grown too large for your current residence.  There are so many questions in this young mind needing answers, so a tiny beak starts to peck.

Out of the shell, the newborn cries for company.  Where are its parents?  Next to a parent the tiny bundle of fluff wonders if its legs will allow it to stand.  Are they sturdy?  Walking around taking tentative steps, the bird notices another youngster, a sibling.

The newborn follows the older baby, the duo wanders around the shore, exploring the area and the use of their legs and wings.  Mama advises them of dangers.  She shows the baby the best things to eat.  A flock of cranes glide by overhead and wishes of flight fill a young heart.  All this activity means it's time for a nap.

With insight perfected from her keen and practiced observation skills Helen Frost brings us along to appreciate the first days in the life of a sandhill crane.  Told through the voice of the chick, eleven four-line verses present an intimate impression.  The final word in the second and fourth lines rhyme with a gentle and joyful cadence.  Here are four lines.

We flap our wings.
We try to dance.
Let's go swimming---
here's our chance.

The photography of Rick Lieder on the front and back of the dust jacket is the initial wondrous glimpse of what the interior pictures will depict.  You have to wonder how many hours were spent and how many photographs were taken to get the perfect presentation of the chick with the open beak, nestled in the mother's feathers.  To the left, on the back, a tiny chick is cautiously walking in grass.  Its head is turned as something has captured its attention.

On the book case, in spring green, the sandhill crane chicks, walking side-by-side are embossed and raised on the front. On the opening endpapers in a field the baby is walking from the left to the parent on the right.  Of the parent we see legs and a head and neck bent and ready to receive the child.  In shades of purple and blue, dusk is falling, and clouds move across a moonrise on the closing endpapers.  Framed between darkened evergreens, four cranes fly to the right.

Most of the eloquent images span two pages.  The single-page pictures flow together seamlessly as if they were taken mere seconds apart.  Most of the photographs are close-ups which give readers a more personal experience.  The color, definition of details and lighting are breathtakingly exquisite.  The layout and design with respect to the picture sizes and placement of the text is superb.

One of my many, many favorite photographs spans two pages.  Most of the background is a blurred dark green due to focus and perspective.  Walking along a line of a lighter color on the bottom are the two chicks and a parent.  We are very close to the chicks.  On each one of them a leg is raised, poised for the next step.  To their right are the tall legs of an adult, also in mid-step.

There is no better way to welcome this wonderful season of spring than with new life after the long, cold and snowy winter.  Hello, I'm Here! written by Helen Frost with photographs by Rick Lieder is certain to be a favorite story time book whether read one-on-one or to a group.  I know there will be requests for it to be read again.  It will promote further investigations into the study of young animal babies, birds and sandhill cranes.  At the close of the book is a page devoted to more information about these distinctive birds.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Helen Frost and Rick Lieder and their other work, please explore their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  It is an incredible captured moment.  Please enjoy the book trailer.  I have included further websites and a video to be used along with this book.  You can get more information at All About Birds, Songbird Protection Coalition (This article addresses the discussion surrounding making them a game bird in the state of Michigan.), Michigan Audubon and International Crane Foundation.

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