Quote of the Month

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




Thursday, April 15, 2021

Questioning Nature

You step outside in the spring and listen, look and inhale.  The spring peeper chorus fills the night air.  In the distance a lone coyote howls into the darkness.  Moths flit and flutter in beams of light.  The next morning chickadees send messages from tree to tree making a distinguishing melody.  Mist after the rain smells fresh.  Impressions left in mud, dirt, and sand announce wildlife visitors.

What if you took these sounds, sights, and odors and shifted how you listened, looked, and inhaled?  Wonder Walkers (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 30, 2021) written and illustrated by Micha Archer is an exuberant one-day journey outside.  Excited siblings share their musings and questions drawing readers into each and every moment of this glorious day celebrating our planet.

Wonder walk?

Sure.

Those three spoken words open a door to inventive possibilities.  Looking at the sun, the girl asks, 

Is the sun the
world's light bulb?

From her question, what is your reply?  If the sun is indeed the world's light bulb, what or who turns it on?  Oh, there is much you can do with her first query.

Gazing across the expanse of a river, fog hovers above the water.  What can it be?  Running through a mountain meadow, the children imagine the mountains and forests as life partners.  What are they?  The boy's and girl's curiosity is building.

Tree trunks look as though they are stretching up to the sky, but what if they are stretching down from the sky?  Another thought occurs to the children as they rest and meander among the branches of an enormous tree.  Then, on the ground, running like the wind, they fantasize about dirt and roots.

From the forest, they find themselves on a sandy and rocky beach.  They peek inside a cave pondering.  The ocean and its shore offer two more reflections.  As the girl and boy walk toward home, the river, the wind, and the rain prompt more perceptions, until later, they watch the moon rise over the seascape in front of their home. 


To be sure, no matter how many times you read this book, you'll read it again.  Why, you ask?  Micha Archer welcomes us to take notice of the characters' questions, but also encourages us to fashion our own suppositions.  On a grander scale, perhaps, Micha Archer is wondering if we look at these things in nature differently, might we do the same with one another.  Once to pause and again to conclude, the girl and boy utter identical words, a bond and a nod to the title.  Here is another of their questions.

Are roots plant's toes?


Are you ready?  Let's join the children on the front, right, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Let's run along the sand, climb the rocks, feel the saltiness of the breeze and warmth of the sun.  Let's listen to the waves crash on the shore.  Let's shout out loud in happiness.  

The rocks, sand, and ocean continue on the other side of the spine.  There we read an introductory sentence about this title.  There are praises and blurbs for Micha Archer's two previous books, Daniel's Good Day and Daniel Finds a Poem.

On the opening endpapers is a light, bright spring green to signify beginning.  On the closing endpapers is a deep teal symbolizing the end of the day.  On the initial title page, a full-page picture, we are shown a breathtaking collage of meadows, trees, ocean, and sun with fingers of fog reaching in from the right.  On the formal title page, a double-page visual, the children are relaxing on a textured emerald green sofa.  The girl is reading a book, and the boy is cuddling their sleeping cat resting on his stomach.  Above them are two separate large windows giving readers views of sand, sea, sun, and sky.  (I am curious about the artwork hanging on the wall on either side of the windows.)

These images rendered

in inks and collage, using tissue paper and patterned papers created with homemade stamps

by Micha Archer are brimming with harmonious texture and an inviting color palette.  They all span, with the exception of the final illustration, across two pages.  The panoramic landscapes are marvelous, taking you to specific places during particular times of the day.

One can only speculate on the hours spent making the materials and the meticulous care in planning and placing each individual piece to form a completed image.  Exquisite details require readers to pause at each page turn.  The children are highly animated as they explore.  Sometimes they are small in comparison to the vista in which they are placed.  Other times we are brought so close to their faces; only portions of them are shown.

I think I could stare for hours at one of my many favorite illustrations.  A wide band along the bottom is intricate layers in earth tones featuring a view underground of a myriad of roots and rocks of all sizes. Above this is a feast for readers' eyes in greens and blues, showcasing all types of flora.  There are splashes of reds, oranges, and yellows.  In the foreground are the children.  All we can see is the lower part of their bodies, their legs and feet as they race across the ground.  Their beautifully patterned clothing in blues and reds adds another element to this striking scene.


As you read Wonder Walkers written and illustrated by Micha Archer, silently or aloud, you stop at every page turn to consider each question and to notice every single item in each illustration.  This is a book to promote discussions, and to extend through writing, artwork, and research.  It inspires similar walks.  So, grab a notebook and pencil or a camera and go outside to see what you can see, hear what you can hear, and inhale what you can inhale.  What a beautiful world it is!  I highly recommend this title for all collections.

To learn more about Micha Archer and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website, you can view multiple interior images.  Micha Archer has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  


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