Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fabulous Florals

They embellish our world, inside and outside, with a distinctive array of color.  They represent the continuation of life, bold and subtle elegance, and silently convey meaning when spoken words are absent.  (It is said they have their own language.)  We look for one or more as harbingers of seasonal shifts.  Sometimes their presence is fleeting, and other times it lasts against all odds, returning year after year.

These living beings, flowers, burst forth in affirmation.  In the fifth book in the Big Book series, The Big Book Of Blooms (Thames & Hudson, in association with Royal Botanic Gardens KEW, May 5, 2020) written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer, readers are introduced to flower families, flower anatomy, pollinators, specific flower groups, seeds and seed travel, flowers to treat with care, professional gardeners and how we relate to and garden flowers. Reading this book is like strolling through a botanical bed of beauty.

Can you find . . .
. . .the golden bulb hidden 15 times in
this book?  Watch out for imposters . . .

Including an index and a key to the positions of the fifteen golden bulbs, this superb title covers twenty-nine topics.  Two pages are dedicated to each item with explanatory sentences, labels, and glorious images.  For the first section


a question begins the discussion.

Do flowers have families?

We are offered an explanation of what a flower family is compared to a human family.  Six of the numerous families are named, appearing on leaves of a large plant extending from the bottom to the topic of a vertical image requiring a turn of the book to view it.  For


an entire flower is shown including a cut-away of the roots underground.  Did you know sepals are the green part of a flower underneath it?  They are vital to both buds and open flowers as supporters and protectors.

The colors of flowers attract pollinators.  Lines on the flower petals act as guides for landing and paths to nectar for the pollinators.  Flowers have medicinal purposes but can also contribute to increased allergies.

Venus flytraps are only found in the United States naturally.  After capturing prey a few times, a trap falls and is replaced.  Did you know roses have been grown in outer space by astronauts?  You'll never guess how much water they need to make one flower.

One plant family existed during the time of dinosaurs.  Many of the specific flowers in this family only grow in one spot in the world.  They are called proteas.  Giant water lilies are found in the Amazon River.  They are sturdy enough to hold fifty-five pounds!  There is a cactus that waits thirty-five years for its first flower to bloom.  Sunflower heads turn to follow the path of the sun during the day.

Flowers may be named for their physical characteristics, like the bleeding heart vine.  Some flowers use smell, revolting odors, to attract their food.  Other flowers, like the bird of paradise, only allow a single pollinator near them.  Did you know cut tulips will seek out light by shifting their position in a vase?

As the book closes readers are warned about flowers with poisonous properties, informed about Kew Gardeners, how plants need our help to survive before they go extinct, and where we can grow the smallest of gardens.  Six special words related to flowers are explained prior to the index.  Informative images accompany each one.

Equally evident in this title, as in the other books, is Yuval Zommer's respect and affection for the natural world.  He endeavors and succeeds in giving us a basic knowledge about this topic.  He gathers facts, vetted by experts, guaranteed to astonish, and fascinate.  Supplying a question at the beginning of each section not only piques our curiosity but allows for more in-depth answers.  The playful nature of titles and of portions of the narrative are an indication of his keen sense of humor.  Here are several passages.

A pretty price
The world's most expensive rose
is the Juliet rose.  It took famous rose
breeder David Austin 15 years and
$3.7 million to develop this beautiful bloom.

Batty about bats
A pitcher plant in Borneo is shaped
to give bats a cosy place to snooze
during the day.

The Dracula orchid was named after the famous
vampire because its petals are blood red and the
long, thin ends of its sepals look just like fangs.

The dark canvas on the book case allows for the resplendence of the flowers to shine.  The collection of colors and flowers from diverse families capture our attention.  Readers will notice the buggy companions among the blossoms.  The text and most of the elements are varnished here and on the back.  Text usually seen on the front flap of a dust jacket is framed by flowers on the back.  Thumbnails of the previous books are shown along the bottom.

On the opening and closing endpapers whorls of white are placed on a canvas of sandy cream.  On the first set three blossoms are placed in the lower, left-hand corner.  One has opened and the seeds are scattering across both pages among other seeds caught by the breeze.  On the second set in the upper, right-hand portion of the pages are flowers reaching upward with their roots included.

On the initial title page, the text is in black on a white background with flowers all around it.  A full sun and insects are also present.  On the formal title page, the background is black.  A cluster of all kinds of flowers spans across both pages.  Other blooms grow from the top left-hand and right-hand corners.  Other living creatures are featured.  With a page turn we see the


heading with section titles and page numbers on the left and right.  In between them is a gorgeous floral display, stretching to the left and right along the bottom.  This is growing from the pages of an open book.

Within the book, Yuval Zommer has placed three vertical, two-page pictures.  Each page turn reveals a different shade used for the background, alternating them to highlight the blooms Yuval Zommer is showcasing.  The images invite readers to study the elements, noticing the textures, flowers, and the other inhabitants of the area.  There is a multitude of details.  As you look at each illustration, it's as if it could spring to life in an instant.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the portion titled


A large hand, palm facing readers, extends from the bottom to nearly the top.  A huge bouquet of blooms spreads around it like a floral fan.  As the four separate topics are discussed other smaller images are included, medicine, a cup of herbal tea, enlarged pollen and a faucet filling a tub perfumed with lavender.  Butterflies, beetles, a snail, and a dragonfly are there, also.  This illustration is placed on a lighter golden, yellow-green background.

This book, The Big Book Of Blooms written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer, is an outstanding addition to the series.  Flower lovers will slowly pause at every page turn.  For those unfamiliar with flowers in general or these particular blooms, it is safe to say, they will be inspired to begin their own gardens.  You'll want to include this book on your personal and professional bookshelves along with the four previous titles, The Big Book Of Bugs, The Big Book Of Beasts, The Big Book Of The Blue, and The Big Book Of Birds.

You can find a bit more about Yuval Zommer by following the link attached to his name to access a website.  Yuval Zommer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  His posts are full of his artwork.  At the publisher's websiteyou can view several interior images.  At Let's Talk Picture Books, you can view the endpapers.

Be sure to take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the titles chosen this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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