Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Preserved Grandeur

The memory of certain beauty, no matter how many decades pass, never leaves.  When you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon gazing at the vista spread before you, you have to remind yourself to breathe.  An early morning drive through the Great Smoky Mountains feels like you've entered another place in another time, a place when magic is possible.  If you time it right, you'll be looking up more than one hundred feet as Old Faithful, a geyser, erupts in Yellowstone.  Lupines as far as the eye can see, carpet a landscape in Rocky Mountain National Park.  In the silence of a sunrise as the world awaits, the Grand Teton range stands like ancient sentinels, guardians of the world spread before them.

The designation of national parks throughout the United States protects diverse ecosystems.  They provide protected spaces in a variety of geographic locations for more than 300 million visitors each year.  You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, June 4, 2019) written and illustrated by Evan Turk is a spectacular and intimate journey to twenty-three of the parks.

To the chipmunk in her burrow,
sleeping beneath the leaves to keep warm;

Traveling from the Shenandoah in Virginia, we see giants plow through snow in Yellowstone in winter.  The bison brave weather in all the seasons.  Wildflowers swaying in breezes and pronghorn grazing on grasses are seen in Colorado at the Great Sand Dunes.  All these animals and the flora around them call these places home.

Bobcats, fireflies, and elk roam these locations, their relatives residents for generations.  Whether you come from city streets or sprawling farmlands, this is home.  For people calling this home for the first time and for people calling it home before anyone else, this land is for all to enjoy.

Rock formations like alien architecture, mountaintops like stairways to the stars, trees towering like they belong in a land of giants and coral reefs creating castles for marine life, are only some of the majestic sights to be scene in our national parks.  Wherever you travel, whatever you see, hear, smell, taste or touch, all these things in these preserved regions are home to you and many others.  These national parks are constantly in motion through the activities of the wildlife, the flow of water, the erosion of rocks and soil and the changing views throughout the seasons.

Even with changes something remains the same.  It is a melody sung in every corner of every national park.  You can feel its notes playing in your soul, connecting you to that which surrounds you.  It is a single word with the warmth, serenity and comfort of an embrace.

The poetic phrases penned by Evan Turk are a soothing symphony; taking us on a journey through the best this planet has to offer us.  Each combination of words appeals to our senses as we become acquainted with the flora, fauna and scenic vistas.  Regardless of where we originate, Evan Turk ties us to these national parks, allowing us to call one or all home.  Here is a passage.

to the herds of elk
trumpeting the arrival of fall;

to the forests of twinkling aspen
turned golden by the shortening days:

you are home.

When you open the dust jacket two magnificent scenes are spread before you.  We stand with two others looking over flowers, water, hills and mountains in California before our eyes turn to the left, on the back.  (The three-word title on the front is embossed in gold.)  We are in Virginia with the rolling hills of a valley spread before us.  In the lower right-hand corner, the chipmunk from the first passage watches.  Accolades for three of Evan's other titles appear in a framed rectangle superimposed on this view.  The background for the text is like vellum.  It's partially transparent.

The book case in rich colors of red, purple, orange and green portray a view of a canyon with a river in turquoise like a ribbon winding through the steep walls.  This is more of an abstract depiction but stunning, nonetheless.  On the opening and closing endpapers, we visit first Acadia and then Olympic.  In the first a setting sun radiates golden light on water and a rugged shoreline.  In the second night fashions shadows of tall rocky spires against a star-studded sky.  

For the title page the scene on the back of the dust jacket is extended to the left on another page providing a place for the dedication and publication information.  All the illustrations are rendered in pastel on black paper and most span two pages.   Single page pictures emphasize the pacing of the narrative.  Whether Evan Turk takes you close to a sleeping chipmunk or to watch others walk through the Arches or among soaring birds in the Everglades, each image is heart-stopping gorgeous.  

The color palette, time of day and season of the year are presented with polished skill.  Each visual conveys not only a particular park but the passion of this author and illustrator for his art.  With each page turn you find yourself inwardly gasping at the Earth's elegance before you.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is in Yellowstone (the first National Park).  To the left rolling hills studded with trees are snow-covered.  The air is filled with snow.  A river winds through the landscape along the bottom.  Bison are grazing.  On the right the animals are closer to us and in the foreground, ready to move.  Behind them a darker, snow-covered view moves to the top of the page and to the right.  There is a very real sense of majesty in every element of this picture.

After you've read You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks written and illustrated by Evan Turk, you'll go back to read it repeatedly but only after you've paused in stunned silence first.  This is a showpiece, a work of art.  At the conclusion of the book, Evan Turk has two pages of notes, including a portion about the art.  It is followed by a map of the National Parks Of The United States with thumbprints of those parks featured in this title on the right. There is one final page titled:

More About The Parks And Animals In This Book.

Make sure you have a copy of this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Evan Turk and his other work, please follow the link attached to this name to access his website.  Evan Turk highlights interior images from this title.  He has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Evan writes a guest post on The TeachingBooks.net blog about this book.  The cover reveal is hosted by teacher librarian Matthew Winner.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, premieres the book trailer at Watch. Connect. Read.  Evan Turk is interviewed at The Booking Biz.  This title is highlighted by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pictures.

UPDATE:  Evan Turk is interviewed at Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb on June 27, 2019.

This book is so important and lovely, I am happy to give away a copy to one fortunate winner.  Good luck!

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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