Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Cool Respite

The natural world rests in winter.  A lot of children, when asked, can name at least one animal that sleeps during this season.  Some of them can tell you why these animals pause in their daily activities.  Others can name this sleep, calling it hibernation.

If you were to question this same group of children about another season when animals sleep, you will get silence and a group blank stare.  In fact, if the group were people of all ages, the response would probably be similar.  In the marvelous manner we have come to expect from collaborators, author Melissa Stewart and illustrator Sarah S. Brannen, their new release Summertime Sleepers: Animals That Hibernate Estivate (Charlesbridge, April 27, 2021) does not disappoint.  We willingly stroll through the wondrous information given to us in words and artwork; knowing we are now far better equipped to be the stewards we are meant to be for our planet.

As warm weather spreads across the land,
hibernating animals spring to life.

At the same time, other animals seek cool spots so they can slumber.  They are about to begin estivation.  Of these animals. some select to sleep in large bunches.  Alone, the mourning cloak butterfly nestles into a bark bed until it awakes in autumn.

Above ground on tree branches, hard-shelled creatures rest inside, closed off from the outside world.  Below ground, special occupants of Christmas Island go deep into their residences.  Did you know there are fish that burrow into mud when their water dries up in the summer?

Certain amphibians find refuge and prefer other animal hideaways. For animals that use other animals' homes, there are opposites that make their own place to rest.  Long treks are taken by particular reptiles.  They feast and then sleep, snuggled under forest floor bedding.  Although there are animals that travel to sleep, there are others who stay exactly where they are.

A long rest is in order for many of these animals.  For others, it is only a handful of days here and there.  Each season dictates specific behaviors, until places and spaces are switched.  Brrr . . . there's a chill in the air.

Author Melissa Stewart has our attention as soon as we read her first few sentences.  Each paragraph is replete with facts delivered through clever alliteration.  She employs a contrasting technique to present information, beginning on the left with a partial sentence and giving a more in-depth explanation on the right (or underneath) relative to one animal.  That partial sentence is completed with a page turn and another explanation is supplied for a new creature.  Here is one example.

. . . but others toss and turn before 
catching their zzz's. 

When the sizzling sun dries up the mangrove
killifish's watery home, the little fish jump
across land, flipping head-over-tail, until they
find a hollow log.  Crammed inside this dark,
damp den, killifish wait for wetter days.  If the
dry spell lasts long enough, the little fish slip
into a slumber until the rain returns.

In a large image, extending left to right, across the back and front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, illustrator Sarah S. Brannen creates through curved lines, calm.  The desert hedgehog curls in repose, saving energy.  Its bungalow den is shaped from rocks in colors like its own. 

On the opening and closing endpapers, the design uses space to first give us a title page and last to provide the dedications and publication information.  On the opening endpapers, on the left, a naturalist's notebook is open to a drawing of a spotted turtle.  Beneath the pages, the turtle moves through fallen leaves on a forest floor.  Above a blue sky glistens.  On the closing endpapers, four other pages from the notebook, about four other animals, are spread from the left, across the gutter, to the far-right edge.

Each double-page picture rendered

in watercolor on Arches bright white cold pressed paper

by Sarah S. Brannen, with the exception of the first and last illustrations, places the named animals in their natural habitat when they are resting or searching for a location.  Within these large images are the page from the naturalist's notebook.  These are line drawings in black on a cream canvas.  They have the common and scientific names, the actual size, other positions, and place of residence.

In her illustrations, Sarah S. Brannen brings us close to the creatures, but usually includes a more panoramic view of the encompassing landscape.  Convergent lady beetles are seen in large numbers inside curved leaves of a ground plant.  Behind this plant are desert mountains dotted with spots of greenery.  These two perspectives are important so we can be mindful observers and protectors.

One of my many favorite pictures is for the mourning cloak butterfly.  We find ourselves standing in a woodland.  Tree trunks and leafy boughs rise to the top of the pages.  On one of the trunks to the left of the gutter, a butterfly, wings open, rests.  On the right, we move close to a single trunk.  There we see the top and underside of a mourning cloak butterfly's wings, just prior to it tucking away for sleep.  On the far left is a page from the notebook.  The actual size of the butterfly is represented as is a picture of it on an oak leaf.  We are given both names and the place where it is seen, Broughton Nature Area, Marietta, Ohio, US.

Readers of all ages will be amazed to learn about these resilient creatures who rest to escape the rigors of the hottest season.  Summertime Sleepers: Animals That Hibernate Estivate written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen is a book to place on both professional and personal bookshelves.  The back matter includes More About Animals That Estivate, Estivation Versus Hibernation, Continue Your Exploration, Author's Note, Illustrator's Note, and Selected Sources.

To discover more about Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Melissa Stewart has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Sarah S. Brannen has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view an interior picture, download a teacher's guide, and a readers theater script.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, hosted the book trailer premiere on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  Both creators are interviewed there.  At Maria Marshall's Making Nature Fun, a group of nonfiction authors are interviewed.  Melissa Stewart and this title are a part of that gathering.  Melissa Stewart is interviewed about this title at First Draft to Final Book

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