Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Journey Toward Home

Throughout countless hours over decades, not a single one is seen.  Regardless of the habitat explored, they remain elusive.  They prefer the shadows, moving during the in between time before sunrise and after sunset.  Movement in daylight is out of necessity.  

Maybe, the enormous ''house cat'' running from one wooded area to another wooded area across a neighbor's vacant lot is a first sighting in more than sixty years.  Their presence can be fleeting.  After reading Bobcat Prowling (Roaring Brook Press, March 22, 2022) written by Maria Gianferrari with pictures by Bagram Ibatoulline, readers (this reader did) will acquire an eye for spotting this member of the larger feline family and smaller lynx group.

Beyond your house,
behind tall pines,
under paling stars
Mother Bobcat wakes.

With her, a yearling greets the day.  Snow still covers the ground.  A call from a male separates the two.  The yearling needs to find its own home range.  Lengthy travels begin for the cub born one year ago.

Paw prints follow the path of train tracks.  They show shelter sought within the lower branches of evergreens.  In the light of morning, Yearling finds a snowshoe hare.  Yearling is ready for breakfast but a Canada lynx leaps first. Yearling leaves.

The next meal, a squirrel, is snagged by another bobcat.  Yearling again leaves.  Days pass.  Snow melts.  Yearling is spotted in a neighborhood, traveling to the next possible space.  Ring-necked pheasants gather along the edge of a river.  Yearling is quiet and stealthy.  Food!  A coyote charges. Yearling runs, drops the prize, and climbs a tree to safety. Sleep.

Months have come and gone.  Yearling is now Bobcat.  An elder bobcat has died.  Its home range is free for another bobcat.  Bobcat stakes a claim.  If you are observant, you may discover another of Mother Nature's creatures sharing your same space. 

This nonfiction narrative penned by Maria Gianferrari takes us into a part of our world we might not otherwise appreciate.  Through her sensory descriptions, we are able to shadow Yearling as it takes a trip repeated for generations.  The inclusion of humans and their world at several points makes for a more realistic depiction.  Here is a passage.

Yearling wanders.
Winter wanes.
You watch from your window
as Yearling visits your bird feeder,
snaring unsuspecting songbirds.
But he's just passing through.

The scenes presented on the left and right of the open dust jacket look to be as one, but on closer inspection they are two distinct visuals.  To the left of the spine is a great snowy slope with a mountain vista in the background.  A line of evergreens appear to the left and in front of the mountains.  A road, in the front, curves to the left.  Looking small in comparison, Yearling walks down the road.  To the right of the spine, intently focused, is Yearling.  We are close to the cat as it pounces.  The bobcat and text are varnished in this winter setting.

An enlarged interior image covers the book case.  It is still winter along a river.  Yearling has just captured a pheasant.  The remainder of the birds take flight to the right and above the bobcat.  The sky and clouds are colored with end-of-the-day hues as the sun sets. 

On the opening and closing endpapers is an amplified map.  It shows the route taken by Yearling becoming Bobcat and locating a home range.  It begins in southern Vermont and ends in eastern Massachusetts.  The map is colored in shades of tan, cream, and gray.  It is similar to a topographical map.

On the title page, Yearling runs over a grassy field.  On the verso and dedication pages, a large winter illustration covers both pages.  The snow in the center is a placeholder for text.  Below it are blades of brown grass.  Above it are fields of rolling hills and a forest on the right.

Bagram Ibatoulline rendered these images using


Each two-page picture is rich in texture and nearly photographic.  As readers, we are drawn into each  portrait, each portion, of Yearling's quest.  Some of the action is filled with the tension of survival.  We view immense landscapes in the wild and in urban locations.  We are given a very real sense of sharing, with respect, a common place.

One of my many favorite illustrations shows Yearling stretched on a leafless branch at the top of a tree.  The trunk of the tree and most of its branches are on the right side of the image.  The bough on which Yearling sleeps extends across the gutter to the left.  Part of Yearling's body hangs off the branch.  The lower portion of the sky is a blend of pale peach and pink.  Above this is a darkening blue sky with a sprinkle of stars beginning to show.

This book, Bobcat Prowling written by Maria Gianferrari with artwork by Bagram Ibatoulline, is an informative, beautiful chronicle in the life of a bobcat yearling.  At the close of the book are two pages titled All About Bobcats, a page titled How To Hunt Like A Bobcat and one titled What's On the Menu?  There is a list of books for further reading and of websites to visit and videos to view.  This title is a companion to Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising.  You will want to place a copy of this book in your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Macmillan, you can view interior images.  This title is highlighted at Maria Marshall's website and at Picture Book BuildersBoth include interviews with Maria Gianferrari.

Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist, and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English.  She is the author of narrative nonfiction picture books which celebrate urban ecosystems, the natural world and our wild neighbors.  She also writes engaging expository nonfiction.  And as a lover of dogs, Maria's fiction picture books star dogs as main characters and explore the human-canine bond.  She writes from her light-filled, book-lined study in Massachusetts with rescue dog, Maple at her side.

1 comment:

  1. Your reviews are poetry, Margie! Many thanks for your support & friendship over the years! Book & creature lovers unite! 💕 🐾💗🐾💞