Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

To Know Them

As an understanding of each living thing on our planet grows and is known, our perspective shifts.  We come to view these individuals as more than their name suggests.  They respond to each other and to us in distinct manners.

If the opportunity presents itself to study and interact with a specific individual, their essence is revealed.  If you have not been fortunate enough to experience this in your own life yet, the newest nonfiction picture book by masterful author and photographer April Pulley Sayre reveals this beautifully.  Being Frog (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, February 4, 2020) is about developing a relationship on a sensory and personal level with the world around you.

A frog 
is a being.
It is watching.
It is seeing. 

Just as the frog is watching and seeing, we, too, can watch and see them.  A frog can choose to sit on the same rock or log.  They favor one place over the other, day after day.

Food is hunted for survival.  Attempts are made until there is success.  In the heat of the day, a frog seeks relief from the warmth in shade or water.  Sometimes as the frog rests, is it thinking?

Perhaps it remembers its youth.  Perhaps it remembers the journey from egg, to tadpole and baby frog. During the day it moves up a rocky slop, stops and then, suddenly jumps skyward, only to sit again.

Time for humans is measured by clocks and calendars.  What is time like for a green frog?  How does it measure the days of its life?  A frog is.

Through weeks of watching frogs at a nearby pond April Pulley Sayre pens a poetic ode to their uniqueness.  Her simple but profound sentences describe the meaningful moments of their lives.  Her language vividly mirrors their movements.  A rhythm is supplied with rhyming words, phrase length and punctuation.  She repeats words from the beginning at the end to generate a circle, a powerful, meaningful circle.  Here is a passage.

This log.
Its daily job?
Support the frog. 

From your initial look at the front, right, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you find yourself fascinated by the sheer elegance of the colors and shapes on this frog.  There is a majesty in this captured minute.  The title text is raised.  To the left on the back are three rows of four photographs with narrow white lines in a grid defining them.  Frogs are shown in various positions and places on their pond.  Lovely presentation of flora is there also.

Additional pictures are shown on the end flaps as well.  The opening and closing endpapers are a shade of yellow as seen on the frog.  On the title page a front view of a frog's face peers through a spectrum of color.

The photographs throughout the book, taken by April Pulley Sayre, range in size from a single page picture crossing the gutter to create a large column for text, nearly full-page illustrations, several panels on a single page, and full-page images.  Their size and the white space for text shape the pacing and emotional effect.  The point of view in these photographs is outstanding.

One of my many, many favorite photographs is the first one.  It spans a single page on the right and crosses the gutter a bit to the left.  It is a close-up of a frog's face with the area surrounding it blurred.  Although the frog is still, you believe it could leap into action at any second.  It's a breathtaking portrait.

Readers of all ages will find the words and photographs in Being Frog written and illustrated by April Pulley Sayre either shifting or enhancing their belief in every living being having individual worth.  At the close of the book an Author's Note offers insights into the process, the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific data, and April Pulley Sayre's observations and thoughts about those observations.  Resources for Further Exploration are offered.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about April Pulley Sayre, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  April Pulley Sayre has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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