Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

Their Presence Is A Present

We are never sure what will grab our attention when we look outside our windows.  Will it be the sunrise glistening off ice crystals coating the branches and leaves on nearby trees and the weeds scattered in the fields?  Will it be a raptor soaring on wind currents?  Will it be white-tailed deer grazing on fresh green shoots in the spring?  Once we are out-of-doors our senses alert us to the trill of chickadees, the odor of rain on the rushing breeze, the blur of hummingbird wings as they feed on floral nectar, or rabbit tracks in newly fallen snow.  Each day is a surprise to be savored.

Once you have heard their call, it is unforgettable.  It is unique to them.  Secrets Of The Loon (Minnesota Historical Society Press, March 31, 2020) written by Laura Purdie Salas with photography by Chuck Dayton follows the growth of a newly hatched chick to her first migratory flight.  The blend of descriptive rhyming text with exquisite photographs transports you to the water and the daily journey these birds take.

Below white pines, at water's edge,
in guarded nest of mud and sedge,
squeezed inside an olive egg,
bill meets wing meets folded leg.

During the night under the light of the moon, a new loon is born.  She is frightened falling into the water from the egg, but she floats.  Her parents feed her tiny minnows and crayfish. 

She, along with her brother, avoids lurking predators in the water by riding on the back of her mother.  Soon the duo is too large to ride, so they hide under their father's wings.  When danger glides above the water, the new loon dives, her heavy bones carrying her swiftly where she needs to go.

Moon Loon can now capture her own food.  When two humans venture too close, father displays angry behavior, stirring the water and shouting out.  As summer turns to autumn, the loon child is encouraged to fly, again and again.

Sister and brother are left alone, their parents taking an annual journey.  Then, one day, wings stretch.  Feathers fluff in the wind.  Sister and brother soar.

The highly expressive words of Laura Purdie Salas fashion an intimate depiction of the early months of the life of a loon and of parental responsibilities.  The phrases rhyme with the last word in each.  It is a cadence as smooth as the ever-changing water upon which the loon family resides.  Laura Purdie Salas is not only detailing what can be observed but offering more information.  She gives us the "why."  Here is a passage.

Mother's wild call, its rise and its fall,
warns Moon of the eagle.
Can Moon Loon survive?

Her heavy bones whisper:

Moon Loon, you
can DIVE!

The family portrait shown to readers on the front of the case cover is our first glimpse of the majesty we will witness inside this title.  The silhouetting of the cattails and evergreens is done in some of the interior pictures, also.  The darkness of the evergreens crosses the spine continuing across the back.  This provides a place for text normally displayed on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.  In the lower, left-hand corner is another image of the four loons.

A pale blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, Moon Loon, is swimming toward us.  Water and cattails surround her.  The photography of Chuck Dayton varies in perspective, giving us more panoramic scenes and then moving in close to Moon Loon and her family.  Some of his visuals span two pages and others are single page pictures.  Sometimes one photograph overlaps another, water or shoreline creating a division that blends beautifully.

One of my many favorite pictures is a single-plus page image.  On the right, the mother is carrying the two smaller loons on her back.  Her gorgeous coloring nearly camouflages the younger loons.  She is looking to the right, but they are looking at us readers.  The blue rippling water extends to the left, bottom, and right of them.  Above them the water becomes a silhouette in blue.  As it crosses the gutter, reed and cattails line the left edge.  White space becomes the place for the text on the left.

Written by Laura Purdie Salas with photography by Chuck Dayton, Secrets Of The Loon is a lovely adventure.  It makes the beauty of these birds a personal experience for all readers.  At the close of the book under the heading, More Loon Secrets, are three pages of more facts.  These are followed by Selected Resources.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  

To learn more about Laura Purdie Salas and Chuck Dayton and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Laura Purdie Salas has numerous resources for this title on its special page at her website.  Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Chuck Dayton has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images. There are interviews and articles about this books at KUMD radio, at author illustrator Jena Benton's site, at poet Matt Forrest Esenwine's site, and the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

It only makes an appearance when the right conditions align.  It creates a hush over the world, muffling sights and sounds.  To the touch it is heavy and damp.  Sometimes it is as if you've stepped into an alternate reality.  Feel the Fog (Beach Lane Books, September 15, 2020) written and illustrated by April Pulley Sayre is a poetic and photographic ode to fog, The words and pictures envelope you completely.

Fog rolls in,
damp and pale.

A cloud, ground level,
hugs stone,

and snail.

Depending on its thickness, fog can obscure everything except for that which is right in front of us.  Everything in the distance disappears.  Everything is colored differently; the radiance of the hues is muted.

Reach out with your bare hand.  Lift your face to the fog.  How does it feel?  How do you define its essence?  

Science tells us how fog is made.  Fog can develop when warm air cools.  It can happen on land.  It can happen over water.  It can happen during any season of the year.  You can see air and wind work when fog moves.  They are no longer invisible.

Our movements are different on a foggy day.  We get closer to see.  This is when treasures are revealed.  Sometimes the sun does not shine through the fog.  There are those who will rejoice.  Will you?

A stillness falls over readers when the words of April Pulley Sayre in this book are read.  We are present in the moments of fog.  Her lyrical, rhyming words create a sensory connection for us.  The use of the title twice within the narrative further ties us to the overall text.  Here is another passage, like the book in its entirety, that reads like words to a song.

Thicker than mist,
fog can drift,
fog can flow.

Fog forms above
fields of snow.

Opening the matching dust jacket and book case readers see two separate images on the right, front, and left, back.  On the front we are getting a bird's eye view of fog sweeping through treetops, drifting into valleys and over hilltops.  On the back we are walking through trees, trunks standing at attention, as fog washes their sharp angles and lines.

A dark charcoal gray covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page we are getting an animal's view of autumn weeds spread before us.  Behind the weeds fog nearly blocks out the forest.  Each page turn the photographs by April Pulley Sayre (two by other family members) pair beautifully with her concise, carefully chosen words.

We are treated to double-page naturescapes, single-page and partial-page close-up visuals.  The shift in perspectives allows us to see fog as others, besides humans, might view it.  The text is placed on the photographs.  This technique implies the words are a part of the fog, also.

One of my many favorite photographs is a double-page picture.  It is during winter.  A field, an opening with two evergreens on the right, and a larger row of trees and shrubs behind them make for a multi-dimensional view.  The snow on the ground and the fog appear nearly as one.  You can feel not only the fog, but the quiet.

We read and learn about this weather phenomenon through the words and pictures of April Pulley Sayre in Feel the Fog.  You'll hardly be able to wait for the next foggy day after reading this book.  At the close of the book under the heading of The Clouds That Come to Visit are more facts within nine other sections.  In her acknowledgements April Pulley Sayre thanks a senior meteorologist, Sam Lashley, at the National Weather Service for reviewing the text.  You will certainly want a copy of this book for your personal and professional collections.

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

1 comment:

  1. What beautiful reviews, Margie. Thank you! And I can't wait to read April's book. I adore fog and all of April's books in this series--Best in Snow, Raindrops Roll, etc. So happy there's a new one!