Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Through The Four

For those fortunate enough to live in an area experiencing all four seasons, in the northern hemisphere spring seems to have finally arrived.  There have been several mornings in the last ten days without frost on rooftops.  Grass is greening and growing. Tiny buds are appearing on shrubs and trees.  Shoots are pushing through the soil in gardens and forest floors.  The first flowers of spring from bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, or crocus are blooming.  The birds are back with all their various melodies.  The sun is rising earlier and setting later.  And we are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures.

All living things are embracing this change.  People of all ages are outside biking, walking, and working in their yards and gardens.  You can hear the sound of children talking and laughing as they ride their scooters or shoot basketballs at a neighbor's hoop.  A wonderful new title to help us enjoy this spring and the other three seasons is My Big Book Of Outdoors (Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 29, 2022) written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood.  It is a lively look at spring, summer, fall, and winter and all each season has to offer.

On the title page, beneath the title text it reads:

Welcome! In every season, there is something different to see, discover, make, and do.  So step outdoors and into nature.

Following the title page, two pages are dedicated to an extensive table of contents with page numbers.  For each season's introduction a double-page picture provides a place for listing, on the left, six phrases, observations about that season.  The next two pages are devoted to 

Signs Of_________.
For those up at sunrise in the spring, we are given descriptions of six birds we might see or hear.  We are asked to notice birds building nests.  This is followed by an activity where we can create our own nest out of chocolate.  (Yum!)  Eggs and feathers of birds are later discussed.

We explore bugs, building a bug hotel, soil we can see and soil we can't see.  Do you know how a tadpole becomes a frog?  Can you tell the difference between a frog and a toad? Have you ever been pond dipping?

During summer, the insect populations explode.  We are given pictures of fifteen insects with their names.  How many have you seen?  Do you know how an egg turns into a butterfly?  You can enjoy painting your own butterfly before eight butterflies are displayed and identified.

Bees and their purpose are disclosed.  Dandelions, sunflowers, and daisies are a part of our explorations and things to do.  Fruits and vegetables of summer are portrayed and labeled.  For those near an ocean or sea or those who make a trip to either, what can you discover in a tide pool or along the sandy shore?

The signs of autumn most visible are the changing colors of leaves.  We can still distinguish between eight leaves by their shapes.  Trees shed seeds which the fall winds carry.  (Our area has a gazillion maple seeds now sprouting in lawns and gardens.)  Squirrels are getting ready for winter building shelters and storing food.  We are presented with two thoughtful pages on the power of a single acorn.  

Fruit is being harvested and used in delicious recipes like baked apples.  How many apples can you name?  If you look to the skies you can see birds leaving on their annual migration routes and cloud formations predicting the weather.

As the chill of winter descends, some birds stay the course.  Which ones of those shown are in your area?  Winter walks in snow reveal tracks of wild travelers.  I spy deer and rabbit prints of the six shown.  Two pages show a dormouse and a hedgehog hibernating.  Some facts about each are shared.

Do you know the name of trees which retain their leaves regardless of the season? Five conifers are represented as well as seven different pine cones.  Did you know pine cones are natural humidity detectors? Four pages speak about snow and snowflakes along with an activity.  To close out the section on winter we look to the skies again, studying stars and the phases of the moon.

The enthusiasm Tim Hopgood has for this subject is evident in every chosen word and every written sentence.  Although the specific topics covered in each season vary, their presentation is similar enough to create a pleasing and welcoming rhythm for readers.  There are the previously mentioned introductory phrases, the signs of pages, topics and matching activities and several poems.  These are woven together seamlessly in each season through informal and informational conversations and abundant labeling.  Here is a passage and a poem.

Cool Places
Stones block out wind and
sunshine and keep the ground
cool, dark, and damp---the
perfect place for insects to
live.  Insects with hard shells
can push under stones to find
food and shelter.

Splish Splash!

drip, drop

drip, drop


The bright turquoise blue sky stretches from flap edge to flap edge on the open dust jacket.  Swirls of startling white clouds are spread across that sky.  The vivid splashes of color seen in the insects and flowers (butterfly on the right and ladybug on the left) also extend to the flap edges.  The ladybug on the left is flying above a large, colorful cluster of flowers.  The ISBN is placed in the center of a white flower.  The title text is varnished.

On the book case it is as if we are looking at a natural exhibit.  The background is dark in hues of blue and green and black.  From left to right on the open case, we are presented with an egg, ladybug, snowdrops, sea creatures, leaves, a butterfly, an acorn, a feather, a snowflake, a mushroom, a pinecone, a moth, a snail, worms, and another kind of nut.  The ISBN is placed inside a white leaf.

On the opening and closing endpapers, on a canvas of pristine white, is a close-up of a honey bee.  It is flying over a gorgeous array of flowers.  They are turquoise, pink, white and yellow, orange, and yellow.  Bits of green appear toward the bottom.  On the verso and title pages is a two-page image.  It is a close-up of grasses and a leaf.  Featured are a snail, an ant, a ladybug, and a caterpillar.  The dedication reads:

For everyone who stayed
indoors in 2020


mixed media

every page turn depicts either a two-page picture or a single-page visual.  Tim Hopgood takes us close to a topic such as his conversation about ants.  Here we are viewing their activities via a cross-section.  In support of a sentence and a question in the section about fall, we are privy to a forest landscape.  Many different types of flora and fauna are present in this vista done in warm shades of autumn.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the Signs of Winter section.  It is a two-page picture.  There are white and black silhouettes.  Evergreen boughs, tree trunks, shrubs, and spider webs are in frosty white.  There are several black tree trunks.  On the left side is a winter sky with brighter stars.  A black bird rests in branches covered in red berries.  On the right side, snow swirls.  An icy blue area indicates a frozen pond.  This is a marvelous collage of winter wonders.

Not only is My Big Book Of Outdoors written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood brimming with information, activities, and stunning artwork, but it is an ode to nature.  Your appreciation for the outdoor world will grow with every supplied observation.  You will want to have a copy in both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Tim Hopgood and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  At his website, there are many images from this book to view.  Tim Hoppgood has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.

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