Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Noticing Nature

We know each season has unique characteristics.  Some of those seasons are more favorable than others to us for those very reasons.  One thing about summer, though, is the abundance of everything.  Colors are more vibrant, contrasting with other hues.  There are more animals of every shape and size, birds, insects, mammals, large and small, amphibians, and reptiles.  There are more flowers and blossoms on those flowers.  There are all kinds of seeds being formed and dropped.  And the trees are resplendent in all their leafy glory.

We cannot get so caught up in the shimmering grandeur of the varied green treetops against a clear, startling blue sky that we miss the existence of smaller, more fragile members of the natural community.  Dear Treefrog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 25, 2021) written by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Diana Sudyka explores the transformation in a girl's thinking as her attention focuses on a discovered friend.  Nature offers us lessons when we realign perspectives and time.


I See You
among the tangled green
a tiny dollop of
where before
there was only leaf . . .

Recently moved into a new home and neighborhood, the girl starts to watch the treefrog.  She mirrors its actions.  It stays in silence.  She does, too.  It climbs and moves with care.

The girl realizes in watching the treefrog, she is becoming more a part of the natural world instead of only an observer.  The treefrog offers security and steadfastness when the girl is feeling adrift.  She wonders about the treefrog's past and breathes a sigh of relief when it hides from rambunctious newcomers.

She worries about its safety before and after a storm.  She finds solace in other insect creatures when the treefrog cannot be found.  Autumn brings about changes for the treefrog and the child, colder weather and school.  There is one more surprise, a new friend for the girl.

The newly formed duo are kindred spirits.  They walk through the world in much the same manner.  They are more than willing to wait and watch through the seasonal shifts.  Oh, there you are . . . dearest treefrog.

In a series of poetic letters, Joyce Sidman reveals, through a first-person narrative, the contemplations and conclusions of our young protagonist.  We are privy to her thoughts about her circumstances and those of the treefrog.  Opposite each poem are one, two, three, or four sentences providing information about treefrogs in reference to something mentioned in the phrases.  Here are two passages.

Dear Treefrog
you are!

Against the window glass
we see more of you
     than ever

Your pale belly
and gummy toes
Your half-moon throat
that flutters

Your breath
     so close
     to ours

Treefrogs often climb windows, and walls with their sticky
toe pads, looking for insects.  They hide in unexpected
places: on a hose, on top of a faucet, under a flowerpot.
You never know when you might run into a treefrog.

The images in this book, 

rendered in gouache watercolor on paper,

are resplendent when first seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  The full-leafed, green shades of flora and striking bursts of yellow, orange, and pink supply a comforting environment for a lonely little girl and a treefrog friend.  The raindrops shown on both the front and the back help readers to understand the lushness of the scene spread, left to right, flap edge to flap edge.  A treefrog is nestled on a leaf on the front and the back.  A bee is ready to land on a pink flower on the back.

Illustrator Diana Sudyka in green on a white canvas has created a pleasing pattern on the opening and closing endpapers.  There are raindrops falling among flowers, leaves, ferns, stumps, branches, moss, treefrog eggs, dragonflies, tadpoles, beetles, butterflies, and mushrooms.  The raindrops are larger as we turn to the title page, now their blue adds to the brilliance of the green atmosphere around the leaf where the treefrog rests.

Another page turn brings us to the dedication and publication information pages.  Here Diana Sudyka begins her visual interpretation of the story.  The girl, holding her stuffie cat stands among the green flora and flowers.  Behind her a moving truck and mover bring things to her home on the right.  Snug on a leaf on the right is the treefrog.

All the illustrations, double-page pictures, offer us gorgeous visuals in varying perspectives of the girl and the treefrog.  Many times we move close to the treefrog in stunning scenes.   Other times we transition from one moment to another flawlessly.  Tiny labels appear in some of the pictures, denoting flowers, insects, birds, and frog information.  The wide eyes on the girl and her new human friend offer insights into their moods.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the girl is shown as the same size as the treefrog.  There are fewer colors in this pictures, greens, blues, black, and white.  The girl and the treefrog are black, as if in silhouette.  She is holding a spyglass as the treefrog's first mate on the sailboat (leaf).  It is an eloquent portrait.

You are transported to a special perspective in Dear Treefrog written by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Diana Sudyka.  It informs us about the connections between humans and other creatures and treefrogs.  This book reminds us of the importance of our natural world.  A final single page, More About Treefrogs and How to Welcome Them, answers four important questions.  This title belongs on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Joyce Sidman and Diana Sudyka and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Joyce Sidman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.  Diana Sudyka has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At The TeachingBooks Blog, Joyce Sidman talks about this book.

With all the blossoms blooming and warmer weather, day and night, butterflies and moths are frequent visitors to our backyards, neighborhoods, and surrounding meadows and woodlands.  Of the two, moths seem to be more patient with human observation.  In Moth & Butterfly: Ta-Da! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, June 8, 2021) written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Ana Aranda, readers get an up-close-and-personal view of the two.  Differences and similarities are explored with wit and truth.  We witness seemingly miraculous changes.  Are you ready?

In a corner of the lush, green garden,
two caterpillars share a leaf.

They share other things, too.  They both have multiple legs and loads of spots.  Their appetites for leaves are voracious.  They are about to experience a natural phenomenon, metamorphosis.

Both are being wrapped in a new material.  This enclosure is hiding a complete change.  Weeks pass and then . . .


The caterpillars are now a moth and a butterfly.  They still enjoy familiar activities, but one does them more often in daylight and the other does them more often at night.  Physical differences have developed.  They both have wings, less legs, and antennae, but they move specific to their needs.

The duo is destined to be companions celebrating each other.  One day, they notice another caterpillar twosome.  They greet them as only those in-the-know can do.

With carefully chose words, Dev Petty fashions a friendship story filled with facts.  Her spare text and upbeat dialogue will have readers turning the pages as fast as the caterpillars gobble up leaves.  The beginning of the story is tied to the conclusion with two key words, cementing the shared affection between moth and butterfly.  Here is a passage.

And look!  Both are champions
at chewing leaves into funny shapes.




Looking at the open dust jacket, readers know they are in for a treat.  The color choices and the layout and design focus on the differences and the similarities.  Moth stands out in the night, his hues coordinating against the evening tones and the moon.  Butterfly glows in the sunny daylight, brilliantly colored.  Even though they prefer opposite parts of a twenty-four-hour period, they are still high fiving each other and cheering.  

To the left, on the back, the night sky is on the top and the sunny day is on the bottom.  Flying beneath the moon and standing on a fern, Moth chats with Butterfly resting in the opposite corner.  Both insects and celestial bodies are smiling.

On the open book case, left to right, a loop of yellow begins in the upper, left-hand corner enlarging as it moves to the lower right side.  Beneath it, a larger canvas of dusky blue begins on the left and decreases in size as it moves to the right.  On the left side, Moth and Butterfly hover over a large pink flower sipping nectar.  On the right side, the duo is munching on a shared leaf as caterpillars.  Leaves, ferns, and flowers add to the joy of these shared moments.

On the opening endpapers, in a luminous blue and green, butterfly as a caterpillar is featured on the left.  Another flying insect passes Butterfly among numerous leaves.  On the right side, colors reversed (blue on green), Moth happily frolics among an equal number of leaves. A ladybug stops to chat.  On the closing endpapers a bright yellow highlights Butterfly in blue.  The same flying insect zooms from right to left across the gutter.  On the left, Moth in yellow enjoys the night, mingling among leaves and flowers, and an old shoe.

The artwork of Ana Aranda rendered

in watercolor, inks, gouache, and lime on watercolor paper

is in a word---joy.  Beginning on the title page, we are introduced to Moth and Butterfly as their silhouette forms fly above a planter (yellow-painted bathtub) filled with flowers and leaves.  With a page turn, we are taken outside to an expansive garden setting, the bathtub sitting among other flowers, plants, and a fountain in front of a cheerfully painted home.  As caterpillars, Moth and Butterfly, in yellow, are on large leaves.

Each double-page picture, single-page image with large white frames, and single-page pictures, edge to edge, are bursting with color and animation.  Whether we are shown a more panoramic view or a close-up, we are aware of the informative details Ana Aranda includes.  We notice the antennae.  We notice the time of day and passing of weeks. We notice the complete happiness of Moth and Butterfly within their garden home.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page picture.  The duo has completed metamorphosis.  They are flying above the garden.  They are enthusiastically remarking on their wing colors.  They and their observations are framed by the grass and flowers below them.  Several bees watch the twosome.  

This book, Moth & Butterfly: Ta-Da! written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Ana Aranda, is filled with fun and facts.  This book is about friendship, new beginnings, things which are the same and those that are not.  It asks us to notice the little things.  It asks us to look for things in common while respecting distinctness.  And it invites us to look for more information. At the close of the book a last page, Is it a moth or a butterfly?, supplies readers with more facts. For its upbeat presentation and as a springboard for further discussions, you'll want a copy in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Dev Petty and Ana Aranda and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Dev Petty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Ana Aranda has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  This book is showcased by John Schumacher, author, lecturer, and teacher librarian, on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  You will enjoy his chat with Dev Petty.  This book and illustrator Ana Aranda are featured at Let's Talk Picture Books by Mel Schuit.  You'll love Dev Petty's post at the Nerdy Book Club about change and this title.  Here is a link to a virtual chat about this book hosted by Parnassus Books.  

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