Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 6, 2020

In Her Care

She's always in motion, spinning morning into night and night into morning.  As one day stretches into three hundred, sixty-five, she gives us winter, spring, summer and autumn.  Land and water in its varied forms span her surface.  She is home to flora and fauna populations too numerous to count.  Weather swirls above her.

From the sun she is third, sustaining life for all.  For this she is to be cherished.  My Friend Earth (Chronicle Books, February 25, 2020) written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Francesca Sanna is a love letter to our planet.  The text and images, with flaps and die-cuts, work in marvelous unity.

My friend Earth wakes
from a winter nap.

She listens to sounds of spring, humans working the land and a chorus of birds.  Nothing escapes her attention.  She watches a seed sprout and a web spun by a spider.

When an albatross takes wing, a mole digs or a chimpanzee sleeps, she is there.  She guides a lost baby animal to its mother in a group of mothers.  On a prairie, the tundra or across a glacier, she nurtures all forms of life.  Regardless of size, no ocean resident is without her protection.

Rain, too little, too much or just the right amount springs forth under her guidance.  Fierce winds or gentle breezes flow from her mouth.  The cold arrives again.

Snow comes from her fingers settling over animals at rest in dens, mud, and nests.  Everything she watched in the other seasons is tucked away for a pause.  Earth pauses, too, ready for a new beginning.

Every thoughtful sentence written by Patricia MacLachlan combines to create a melodic whole.  Truthful, soothing and rhythmic words define how our planet, Earth, acts moment by moment to sustain every living being.  Alliteration, repetition and wonderful adjectives supply readers with highly visual scenes with their distinctive cadences.  Sentences are spaced to generate perfection in page turns.  Here is a passage.

She tends the prairie where sun-dappled horses run
through grasses that swish against their legs---

the tundra 
where the reindeer
graze for moss,

and the glistening ice
where the young polar bear
pads on mittened feet. 

When you open the book case, you will find yourself either gasping or sighing in appreciation of the artwork of Francesca Sanna.  Earth shown on the front, right, open-eyed with a gentle smile tugging the corners of her mouth, rests among her creatures of many sizes on land and along the water.  Her hilly, tree-covered tresses extend to the other side of the spine, on the left.  There more creatures of the forest, air and water are displayed.  An otter, fish, dragonfly, spider, ants, frog, seagull, squirrel and crow happily enjoy a moment in harmony.  The color palette is stunning and complementary.  On the front of the case the title text and elements in the scene are raised to the touch.  Other details are varnished.  These are a subtle invitation to open the book.

On the opening endpapers a series of hills, trees, clouds. stretches of water and grass pattern the pages in shades of green, golden yellow, orange, blue and white.  Earth is peeking over one of the circular hills in the lower, right-hand corner.  There is another series of hills, trees, clouds, stretches of water and grass in different colors on the closing endpapers.  The hues are deeper and include a rusty red, teal and various purples.  Earth is walking from the center of the far left.  Her arms are raised with tiny sparkles (seeds) trailing behind her.  The birds shown in the first set of endpapers on the left have moved to the right in the final set.

Rendered in pencil, ink, and digital painting, the illustrations are marvelous.  On the title pages Earth rides in a curled leaf on the right as leaves cascade behind and in front of her.  Across each of the two-page pictures, readers will find flaps to lift which alter the initial image.  Die-cuts offer hints of what is to come and what has been.  Large loosely scalloped edges along the top of partial pages provide intrigue and depth.  Gradually they are altered in placement and shape as the seasons and places differ. 

At times Earth blends with her surroundings becoming part of them.  Other times she is a participate in the scene.  She can shift her size to work her magic.  Sometimes we see the scene straight-on and other times we see it from above.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations has scalloped edges in the lower left-hand and right-hand corners with smaller cuts along the top on each side.  It is an Arctic spread with lots of cream color.  Reindeer, polar bear and human prints pattern this area.  On the left side the reindeer is moving to the right.  On the right, Earth and a young polar bear, on their stomachs, are looking at fish swimming beneath a hole (die-cut) in the ice.  This is a bird's eye view for us.

This book, My Friend Earth written by Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Francesca Sanna, is stunning.  It's an expression of all Earth gives us.  It's a reminder of all we should preserve and protect.  This would be an excellent read aloud for any story time but especially so for a study of our planet and her creatures and Earth Day.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Francesca Sanna and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Francesca Sanna has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations with the flaps and die-cuts.

On March 3, 2020 another book was released with a focus on our Blue Planet.  One EARTH (Worthy Kids) written by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Rogerio Coelho is a special counting book.  In a rhyming poetic intonation with sweeping cheerful images readers are reminded of the spectacular beauty of our home and how we can honor her.

One wide, sweeping sky.
Two honeybees.

As children walk, they see more of each item named in the numerical poem.  Long-eared baby rabbits are snuggled near towering trees, some nearly one thousand years old.  Flora clusters in golden hues near resting reptiles.  Carrying their homes with them must be tiring.

Above and in the sea mammals leap and birds dive and call.  Back on land, over a vast patchwork of fields, critters burrow.  With Earth's elegance noted, what can be done to help her?  We start at ten and go back to one. 

Litter and bottles are gathered.  What can be recycled?  What can be reused?  Let's take old towels to animal shelters.  Let's take clothing no longer worn to others who need them.  You can always turn off extra lights at night.

Get out your needle and thread and mend.  No seed is to be wasted.  Place them in a pocket in the dirt or ground.  Give them water and sun.  What tools do you need to fix that which is broken?  Ask a friend.  Now we are at one.  Look to the sky and those two large shining orbs, one at night and one in the morning. 

   only one.

For readers of all ages but for those younger and learning to count, Eileen Spinelli weaves a wondrous tapestry of our planet with her words.  She asks us to notice those things large and small found in fields, forests, along streams and the sea.  When she arrives at ten, it's an ingenious technique to count backwards and to state how those things previously noted can be protected.  Each example takes only time and the help of an adult, sometimes but not always.  Here is a passage.

Eight plastic grocery bags?
Weave them into mats.
Seven towels getting thin?
Good for shelter cats.

The layout and design of the open dust jacket is wonderful.  To the left, on the back, the picture of the first boy walking from his home, across fields toward the sea stretches to the left flap edge.  A group of homes sit on a slight hill.  A seemingly endless sky covers most of the back and flap with soft clouds layered on the blue.  A flock of birds fly from right to left.  The words read:

One you.
Count the ways to help.

On the front of the jacket, the abundance of birds resting in and from the tree, butterflies among the flowers and fish swimming in the waves present all Earth offers to us.  The four children featured throughout the book are introduced to readers here along with their cat and dog.  As one they look to the sun.  The title text is raised. 

On the book case is a celestial setting, plentiful with stars.  On the right, front, is our planet with faint longitude and latitude lines.  Our moon and the sun are near as a comet crosses in the upper, left-hand corner. 

On the opening and closing endpapers is a golden marbleized canvas.  On the final page are two dedications, one by the author and one by the illustrator. A small bird flies between them.

On the title pages illustrator Rogerio Coelho starts his visual story, showing on a double-page picture a two-story farmhouse on a hill.  Some fencing and a few trees dot the fields.  With a page turn the narrative begins with the boy leaving the house. 

Each of the subsequent two-page pictures are a colorful delight in a variety of perspectives.  We are privy to panoramic vistas, standing at the base of redwoods as they soar upward, strolling between a lighthouse and dolphins leaping in swells, or watching as legs and feet stride over worms tunneling underneath fields spread before us as far as we can see.  In the pause before the count backwards, the four friends stand in breathtaking spot.  We gaze at them though a grove of trees.

The four friends walk into town to observe people striving to protect our planet.  Many races and ethnic backgrounds are featured as are generations.  The facial expressions, especially the eyes, are full of purpose and happiness.  The time of day is reflected in the hues chosen by Rogerio Coelho.  Readers will take great pleasure in noticing all the details in these images.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the original boy and two girls meet with the second boy at the beach.  For most of the right side dolphins move up and through the wavy water, across the gutter and tapering to the left hand corner on the left side.  On the left side the beach with rocky mounds meet the sea.  On the far-left side, a lighthouse stands tall on rocks.  Seagulls glide on the wind over the water and sand against wisps of clouds.  You can hear the water, wind and gulls.  If you listen closely you can also hear the happy chatter of the children.

To promote discussions about Earth and how we can be her guardians, One EARTH written by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Rogerio Coelho is a title you will want on your personal and professional bookshelves.  You can write and draw about your own special things found on our planet.  You can write and draw about the ways to assist in conservation and care.  These collaborators have featured those things of many sizes to notice and do.  Superb.

To learn more about Eileen Spinelli and Rogerio Coelho and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Rogerio Coelho has a blog also.

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