Not a day goes by without making connections with the world in which we live and all living things that dwell there. We spend hours with our attention focused on a variety of things but if we shift our perspective, even a little, it's amazing how our existence expands. We start to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch ordinary things, always there, but previously gone unnoticed.
We start to reimagine how to relate to everything. We inhale this newness like a breath of fresh air. if i was the sunshine (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, May 7, 2019) written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long explores connections born from a deep affection.
if i was the sunshine
and you were the day
i'd call you hello!
and you'd call me stay
Ten more four-line poems take readers gently through seasons and scenarios. Winter and spring speak softly and with a merry melody. When we bend to a flower, the odor tugs on our memories and gives us a name.
Back and forth we travel with a bird and a tree, an apple and a worm and a mountain and the sky. One makes a home, another enjoys a meal and yet another is the farthest and highest. A boat is tossed on the unpredictable waves of an ocean, but that same ocean intervenes.
When the cloud-filled sky darkens and thunder rumbles, one is gentler than the other, but they are essentially bound together. Have you ever stood outside, hardly daring to breathe and listening intently to utter silence? When the quiet is finally broken, either by a man-made noise or a sound from nature, what do you think?
On summer nights, watching fireflies blink on and blink off, we see them as signals. What does the darkness call them? At the close of a day, night comes. Morning will follow. One thinks ahead. Another tucks the moment in their heart with a wish.
In these eleven poems Julie Fogliano gives a star, a time of day, a greeting, a request, a season, a way voices are used, a scent, a body part, a flower, a bird, a tree, a residence and a state of being, to name a few, a voice. These statements of possibility followed by statements of truth are loving calls and responses. They ask us to look at our lives by shifting our points of view and savor each moment for its potential. By having the words at the end of lines two and four rhyme, she invites reader participation. We pause at the page turn rolling around a hopeful answer in our minds. Here is another poem.
if i was the silence
and you were a sound
i'd call you missing
and you'd call me found
When you look at the open dust jacket, it's as if you've stepped undiscovered into two beautiful scenes. In the first the doe and fawn, watch geese fly as the sun first rises in the morning. (See how it touches the tops of the trees.) To the left, on the back, within a circle on a white canvas a mother bear and cub are watching the same sunrise in another part of the forest near a body of water. The parent looks forward and the cub looks at the parent. Loren Long uses the same shades of green, blue and yellow in both pictures. (This is the kind of calm you want to comfort you.)
On the book case a stunning winter painting is spread from left to right. Along the top leafless trees stand among snow-coated evergreens. A close-up of geese flying moves from the low corner to the high corner. Deer tracks make two loops on the snow below the birds. A fawn, small in perspective, looks up at the sight spread before it.
A sky blue covers the opening and closing endpapers. On the initial title page, inside a loose small circle, is the fawn. Opposite the text on the formal title page, the image from the back of the dust jacket is reversed. Each two-page image rendered in acrylic paint by Loren Long is like a framed piece in a gallery.
If you were to hang them on a wall, side-by-side in the order they appear in the book, they are connected by different points of view of the same area during different times of day, in different spots and in different seasons. With superb skill Loren Long shifts our perspective from a panoramic view of a mother and daughter heading to a barn in the early morning hours to them milking a cow under a tree together. The tiny silhouette of a mouse and squirrel appear in both pictures.
With a page turn, it's winter but nestled in the upper, left-hand corner is the barn. It's still there in the spring but now we can see the ocean in the distance. Next, we move closer to some of the settings, from the viewpoint of a skunk, a pileated woodpecker and the squirrels and worm in the very tree the woodpecker calls home. Remember the ocean? It's featured in four visuals before we move inland again. For the final four paintings we complete a circle, returning to the woods and the farm. You need to pause at every illustration to notice the details, the use of light and shadow and the breathtaking color palette.
One of my many, many favorite pictures of the double-page illustrations is the first winter scene. Stretching from the left, across the gutter and half-way into the right page is the form of a sleeping bear. The shape of its body forms a hill which narrows to its head resting on its paws. Over the top of the bear are hills covered in snow. At the top and on the left is the barn. Evergreen trees and leafless trees dot the entire landscape. In a "v" made by two hills is the quiet ocean, like glass as snow falls.
When two masters collaborate, readers are gifted with a book like if i was the sunshine written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long. It's a beautiful tribute to relationships and our connections with those relationships. I know you'll want a copy for your personal and professional collections. Read it often. Share it often. (Can you think of another four-line poem? What picture would make it perfect?)
To learn more about Julie Fogliano and her other work, you can visit her accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To discover more about Loren Long and his work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Loren Long also has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior images and download activity sheets. Julie Fogliano and Loren Long are interviewed for their cover reveal at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.