Friday, September 24, 2021

Spaces In Our World, Places In Our Hearts

Each morning a stroll through the gardens reveals the presence of night visitors.  Their tracks are embedded in the dirt.  Stalks and branches from flowers and shrubs lay on the ground, nibbled and left.  Other plants have been eaten to their roots.  There is an abundance of white-tailed deer in our neighborhood.

Truthfully, watching them wander through the apple trees across the street or seeing them stop and stare at us as we walk in the morning never stops being magical. Sharing this space with them is a gift.  Masterful, award-winning author illustrator Yuyi Morales made a new book, Bright Star (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, September 7, 2021), for us.  In this title we, using a blend of Spanish and English, are presented with beauty, borders, barriers, and the value of all individuals.

you are

Breathe in,
then breathe out,
hermosa creatura.

You are beloved.  We hold your light in our hearts.  The world has many things to notice, some easily seen and others more of a challenge.

Exploring together we will find flora and fauna, rich and rare.  Wait!  Pay attention, something is amiss.  For now, stay hidden.  Stay safe.

If we get separated, we still hold your light in our hearts.  If you are fearful or restless, let those around you know of your fright and frustration.  You will be heard.  Then, be still.  Use your senses to make discoveries.

If those discoveries pave a new path, follow it.  Using your mind, fashion a different tale, your tale.  It will be a tale told by those who always hold your light in their hearts.

With each page turn, one to four sentences, simple but thoughtful and intentional, written by Yuyi Morales warmly welcome us into the narrative.  The Spanish and English words are perfect partners in this lyrical dance.  The use of punctuation provides an added liveliness.  We willingly participate in listening to the words and reading them aloud.  Here is the passage we read after a page turn.

So you search!

You are ready,
cosita pequena.

Let's go!


Looking at the background on the open and matching (reversed images) dust jacket and book case is like being enveloped by an autumn sunset sky.  On the dust jacket, it and the entire image, extend flap edge to flap edge.  The white-tailed deer, a fawn, peering between the cactus on the Sonoran Desert is still, observant.  What does it see?  The rays around the raised title text are embossed in gold foil.  The author illustrator name is raised on the textured fabric.  

The cactus crosses the spine and another one frames the face of a little girl.  She is looking directly at readers.  It is as if she is asking us a question.  On the book case, the image on the back of the jacket is on the front and the front image moves to the back of the book case.  The fawn and the child are one and the same.

The fabric shown on the front of the jacket covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Yuyi Morales has woven threads in golden yellow and forest green along the top and bottom of the pages.  She has embroidered five large stars, made by crossing perpendicular lines.  They are in earth colors.  On the far-left edge on the opening endpapers and on the far-right edge on the closing endpapers is a mass of pink sewn dots, mirroring the color of the cactus flowers.

On the title page, a double-page picture features cactus on either side and a hummingbird on the right.  

The artwork for this book was created using acrylic paint on paper,
photographed textures, digital painting, as well as weaving and embroidery.

Each two-page image in this book asks us to stop.  They are a complete sensory experience.  The representations of flora and fauna are breathtaking.  The backgrounds in the illustrations indicate the narrative mood as well as the time of day.  What do we see in these visuals?

As she did with her words, each element in these images is arranged with intention and considerable thought.  The scene of the destruction around the building of the border wall and the animals wondering how to continue with their instinctive journeys is particularly poignant.  The placement of a wordless picture is perfection.  For the final two page turns, the fawn becomes the girl child.  Deer are embroidered on the front and back of her shirt.  In the last visual, several of the children have featured animals on their shirts.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the text above cited.  The sky and desert floor are nearly identical in color, as so often happens on a clear, calm morning.  Cactus and small shrubs are peppered on the sand.  A roadrunner, a jack rabbit, a ground squirrel, and a lizard join the fawn and its mother.  Several insects and birds are present.  One of the birds is the hummingbird.  On the left the fawn stands eager to move.  It jumps three times with a blur of movement; until it joins its mother on the right.

At the close of this book, Bright Star written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, in an author's note are eleven supportive statements and paragraphs beginning with

I made this book because . . .

In reading this book, you realize Yuyi Morales has accomplished her reasons and more.  This book is deeply moving and timely.  You can't read it once.  You will want to share it often and widely.  Be sure to have a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.  At the close of the book in an acknowledgment is a list of videos and films, books, online sources, organizations, and people that assisted in the creation of this title.

To discover more about Yuyi Morales and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Yuyi Morales has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  The cover reveal and conversational thoughts by Yuyi Morales and Neal Porter was hosted by John Schumacher, librarian, lecturer at Rutgers University, and writer, on his Watch. Connect. Read. site.  Yuyi Morales is showcased at Publisher's Weekly where she shares the process for making this book.  At the publisher's website are additional bonus materials.  At Penguin Random House you can view the endpapers.  Here is a link to Yuyi Morales reading her book aloud on video at KidLit TV.  If you are interested here is a link to an event with Yuyi Morales speaking about this book.

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