Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Seeking Light

A first sighting every year sends a surge of happiness into your soul.  They are harbingers of a seasonal shift and the continuity of Mother Nature.  As a glow in the cloak of darkness, they are briefly like stars, shining on and off and on and off.

This light they make is akin to Morse code, a special beetle communication, welcoming mates and warning territory encroachers and predators.  Firefly Home (Nosy Crow, June 11, 2019) written by Jane Clarke with illustrations by Britta Teckentrup is an endearing, participatory story for younger readers.  A firefly is lost.  Will she find her companions?

There's no place like home,
and this special place is home for fireflies.

Fireflies have a bright light inside
them that shimmers and shines.

We learn Florence, a firefly, is alone, far from home.  We are asked to help her.  Between the leaves on a nearby tree, there is a light.  It might be another firefly.

When we turn the page, we discover it is a crescent moon glimmering on water.  There appears to be more light in the distance.  We follow with Florence.  It is not her home but a beacon for boats.  With another page turn, there is light, but it is not the serenity this firefly seeks. In fact, we are asked to encourage her to fly faster to keep pace with this line of lights.

Now, our lightning bug has entered a city.  There are lights in nearly every window.  It's distracting.  How can she see another being like her among all this light?  Florence needs to be back in the dark; a park is the perfect place.

It is requested we make a wish, a wish on a group of falling stars.  Eyes closed; we wish until a shout is heard.  This voice demands our attention and we comply.  We are with Florence, one hundred percent.  This is why we utter bedtime words of affection.

As soon as author Jane Clarke tells us a firefly is missing, we feel instant tension.  When she enlists the help of readers after introducing us to Florence, we are ready.  We are asked to turn pages, flap our hands, speak words to Florence, point to Florence, wish, close our eyes, trace trails and whisper words.  Descriptive and alliterative verbs and adjectives fashion a gentle rhythm.  The repetition of

Could that be home? and

No, that's not home.

ties the different sources of light together and connects us further with Florence.  Here are two passages.

Where shall we start?
Oh, look! There's a bright light
peeping through the trees.
Could that be home?
Let's turn the page and see.

No, that's not home.  It's just the big, bright
moon above the sparkling sea.

When you open the book case of this title, the inviting night scene replete with hues of blue, golden yellow, brown and bits of green continues on the left side of the spine.  Florence, the firefly needing to find home, is joined by four other fireflies.  They are circling around text inviting us into the story.  On the front Florence, her stream of light and the title text are varnished.  To the left, on the back, the light arcs of the four fireflies are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers are bright yellow.  Florence flies between the text on the title page.  Five of her companions fly through the night sky at the end on the publication and dedication page.

The digital illustrations, spanning two pages throughout the title, rendered by Britta Teckentrup are like multi-layered collage.  The color palette seen on the book case is used throughout the book to imply a night setting but realistic shades are used in all the elements.  The point of view varies with the text, giving us a panoramic display and then, for emphasis, brings us close to Florence.

There is a hint of the type of light prior to each page turn, allowing for readers to make predictions.  Florence's wide-eyed looks and her body posture depict her mood as she journeys from place to place.  This encourages us to assist her with enthusiasm.

One of my favorite illustrations is of a multi-arched brick bridge spanning from left to right.  Traveling on top of the bridge is a large passenger train with numerous glistening windows, moving from left to right.  Above the train is a sky with sparkling stars and a few puffs of clouds.  Florence is trying to keep pace with the train, flying alongside it.  Her light stream is trailing behind her for half the length of the train.  Beneath the bridge and through the arches we can see hills dotted with trees and in the distance on the right, a few buildings in the city.

For children who have never seen a lightning bug or those who look forward to seeing them every summer, Firefly Home written by Jane Clarke with illustrations by Britta Teckentrup is a treat they can hold in their hands and read repeatedly.  Whether as a storytime selection or a cozy one-on-one bedtime read aloud, this title increases appreciation for our natural world at the same time it asks for our assistance.  The cheerful narrative and lively illustrations inspire and support participation.    I'm happy to have this book in my personal collection.  It will make an excellent addition to your professional collections for a calming read aloud, a unit on insects or a theme of offering help to those who need it the most.

To learn more about Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jane Clarke has accounts on Facebook and TwitterBritta Teckentrup has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  At Nosy Crow, Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

You might be interested in the information at Firefly Conservation & Research.  Here is a link to firefly videos at National Geographic.

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