Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


There comes a time when all living things need to seek stillness.  For many, daily rest is required.  For others, their slumber is on a seasonal cycle.  It seems we humans, whose lives seem increasingly at a frantic pace, would do well to take note of the natural world around us.  Our overall physical and mental health is directly related to how well we sleep when we sleep.

Two recent publications address regular repose, daily and seasonal.  In the first, Sleep: How Nature Gets Its Rest (Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019) written and illustrated by Kate Prendergast, readers visit a variety of animals in different habitats as they snooze.  These animals are both domestic and wild.

Cats and dogs sleep curled up . . .

when they aren't playing.

On the farm each animal can be found nestled and napping in their favorite sanctuary, a pond, a henhouse, a field or a barn.  As we move out into the wild, a harvest mouse is seen curled within a nest.  Snails seek shelter in their shells as do tortoises.

Did you know giraffes sleep while standing?  Can you name two animals that sleep upside down?  One of them is a winged mammal that sleeps during daylight and roams about at night.  Guess who never closes their eyes when they sleep?  There is a specific animal when in a group is called a mob and they

sleep in a heap.

One of the most fearsome animals sleeps as one.  Another animal prefers to snooze in the heat of the day.  Others have no choice but to pause in the bitter cold.  Did you know ants only sleep briefly?  After we see fourteen animals resting, a final question is asked.  Scientists have been searching for an answer for years.

With simple statements author Kate Prendergast brings us into the collected animals' worlds.  By stating where animals sleep, she invites readers near those habitats to look for those animals as they rest.  She reveals, as a result of her research, particulars readers will find fascinating. Her inclusion of animals from around the world is a huge plus enticing readers to do further exploration.

The illustrations in this book as first seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case are rendered in mixed media.  The textured effect depicted on each image will have readers reaching to touch the pages.  The portrait of the sleeping tiger on the front is exquisite.  The word Sleep on the jacket is varnished.  To the left, on the back, on a rich midnight blue is a circle of pale yellow.  Within this circle on a colorful rag rug sleeps a dog and cat curled together. 

The opening and closing endpapers are a vivid orange, perhaps taken from some of the highlights in the tiger's fur.  Opposite the dedication and verso page, a mother bear and her cub form a circle as they hibernate in their cave.  This illustration is between the text on the title page. 

Throughout the book on white, heavy, matte-finished paper, the pictures supply a focus on the animals.  Other animals can be found in the illustrations; frogs at the pond with the geese, butterflies on flowers near the horses, a ladybug scaling a blade of grass near the harvest mouse and a beetle scampering away from the pile of meerkats.  The visuals may be on a single page or across two pages.  The attention to detail is marvelous.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is on a single page but the background colors of yellow-green and shades of purple cross the gutter to become part of the next image.  The picture of the giraffe is stunning.  What we see reaching from the top of the page is a portion of the neck and bowed head of the giraffe.  We also see four legs from above the knees, down to the hooves, near the head.  This is a wonderful perspective.

This book, Sleep: How Nature Gets Its Rest written and illustrated by Kate Prendergast, is ideal for promoting discussions on rest in the animal world, to inspire further research and to supply a sense of stillness.  At the close of the book are framed paragraphs with illustrations of more facts about each animal.  A list of resources is on the final page.  You'll want to include this title in your personal and professional collections.  I can't wait to use it in a storytime.

To discover more about Kate Prendergast and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Kate has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior images.

A pairing of stunning photographs with a rhythmic narrative gives readers an intimate look at the wonders of nature.  This second title, Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy In Nature written by Marcie Flinchum Atkins will have individual readers pausing at page turns and listeners gasping at what they see as they move closer to the reader.  After generations of adapting, plants and animals know how survive in the harshest of conditions as seasons and weather change.

If you were dormant, you would pause---

For a tree dormancy looks different from animals.  A sugary substance runs through its branches and truck.  This keeps it safe from the cold just as the tiniest of leaves wrap around buds. Spring releases the sugary substance and tiniest of leaves, so new life begins.

Ladybugs get plumper and gather together when they sleep during winter.  This is how they stave off the chilly temperatures.  At the arrival of spring, they spread out and feast.

An Arctic ground squirrel stays curled in a ball resting away from the ice and snow, but you won't believe what it does to warm up after several weeks.  When the temperature rises outside, the Arctic ground squirrel is ready to romp and eat.

Chickadees are a common sight in northern Michigan (and other areas) every month of the year, but they have their own survival tactics.  For hours at night they pause, slowing their heart rate.  As the sun rises the next morning, you can hear them singing again.

For alligators, mud is like a blanket when cold descends. When heat chases away the cold, they creep outside to look for a tasty treat.  You might be able to guess where earthworms go when there is a drought, but you might not know how they protect themselves.  In all these examples, the opposite of what causes plants and animals to become dormant delivers them to continue or start anew.

The use of language by Marcie Flinchum Atkins in this title is spectacular.  A series of verbs describe the pause of the tree and the other animals.  (The repetition of words provides a cadence for each dormancy.)  We are then informed how those descriptions are accomplished.  The pacing is perfection because we are nearly holding our breaths as the next page is turned.  You can actually feel the joy associated with the arrival of spring, warmth or rain.  She makes the reading experience more intimate for each of us by placing us in the position of whatever being she is featuring.  Here is a passage.

If you were a dormant ladybug,
you would . . .
       FATTEN UP,
            PILE UP,
                STIFFEN UP.
You would swarm into a ladybug pile,
sharing warmth together.

You would pause. 

On the final page of the book, Marcie Flinchum Atkins gives credit to the photographers/photographs selected for this title.  They are full-page pictures, full-page pictures crossing the gutter, smaller framed pictures and one glorious double-page image.  The borders and placement of the photographs supply space for the text.  At times the text is placed within an image.

We are shown close-ups as on the front and back of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Those ladybugs look as if they are coated in sugar.  To the left, on the back, a chickadee rests on a cattail stalk, head bowed and eyes closed.  Then, as on the title page, we are shown a vast view of trees in a field coated in snow like frosting.  A  lush dark blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Each illustration is a beautiful match for the narrative.

One of my many, many favorite photographs is a close-up of another chickadee.  A branch arcs in a soft curve from another branch on the far right.  In the center of that curve, sleeps a chickadee. Its tiny feet grasp the branch.  Its head is bowed low and toward its feet.  The background is blurred.  This is a single-page picture.

No matter how many times you read this book, you will be awed by the resiliency of plants and animals to endure the elements of nature.  Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy In Nature written by Marcie Flinchum Atkins is a meticulously researched volume but also a tribute to those sharing this planet with us.  At the close of the book Dormancy Differences defines six kinds.  There is a list of books for more reading and a list of websites.  No personal or professional collection is complete without this title.

By following the link attached to Marcie Flinchum Atkins's name you can access her website to learn more about her and her other work.  Marcie Flinchum Atkins has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I believe you'll enjoy this interview with Marcie Flinchum Atkins at The Lerner Blog.  Marcie Flinchum Atkins is also interviewed at Notable 19s and KidLit411.

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

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