Quote of the Month

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

Friday, July 8, 2022

Beginning To End And Circling Around Agan

When you have gardens on all sides of your home, every day is a weeding day.  Each day there is a quick walk-through, removing unwanted greenery which seems to appear overnight.  At least one day a week, the entire day is devoted to refreshing the soil and making sure the only thing in the gardens is desired.  It is a chance to carefully look at all the plants and assess their health, growth, and beauty.

It is a day of discovery.  The perennial, you hope survived the winter, has new shoots.  To see tips of green come from the dirt is like a miracle!  With each passing week, flowers blossom and fade and new ones become the stars.  One day the squash and tomato plants have baby squash and baby tomatoes on them! (You might squeal in delight.)  A Seed Grows (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, June 21, 2022) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is a circle story supplying readers with rhythmic phrases and splendidly designed artwork.  It is for the youngest and oldest of readers.  It is a celebration of life.




When it drops, it lands in dirt.  There it nestles, like a child tucked into bed at night.  This seed is heated by the sun and given moisture from the rain.

Then, a tiny sprout breaks free of the shell.  With its newfound strength, it stretches out from the dirt and drinks in the sun that warmed it.  This plant does not stop growing.  

Finally, at the top is a bud.  Slowly, the bud gets larger until a flower bursts forth.  In the center of the flower, seeds form.

As the seasons pass, the flower loses its luster and the blossom droops.  The seeds scatter on the ground.  These seeds make meals for the birds.  One day, one of those birds drops a seed.  And . . .

The deliberate words penned by Antoinette Portis are presented with impeccable pacing.  The first seventy-two words form a single sentence until the final four words form the second sentence in the book.  Those seventy-two words flow like the notes on a marvelous melody.  With each page turn, we can feel something building and swelling until a height is reached and it gently ebbs.  Here is one of the phrases.

and settles into the


When readers open the matching dust jacket and book case, the brilliant blue sky provides a canvas from flap edge to flap edge.  Along the bottom on both the left and right, back and front, is the wide border of dirt.  A large sunflower is placed on both sides.  The sunflower on the front holds the title and the sunflower seedling, newly risen from the ground.  On the back, the sunflower is shown in two shades of yellow.  The center holds praise for two of Antoinette Portis's books, A New Green Day and Hey, Water!  On the dust jacket the title text is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers and first and last pages are close-ups of the seeds inside a sunflower in shades of brown, orange, and yellow.  On the title page, a portion of a sunflower at the top holds the title text.  Beneath this, a bird carries a sunflower seed in its beak.

Antoinette Portis rendered these illustrations

using various printmaking
techniques, including gel printing, linocutting, potato stamping
and printing with a celery stalk.

The text is placed on a white background on the left.  For each phrase a specific word is enlarged and printed in an appropriate color.  The images on the right are simple, but that simplicity draws our focus.  The perspective takes us very close to the elements.  When the flower emerges, readers are treated to a vertical gatefold.  For the last six pages, Antoinette Portis switches to two, double-page pictures and two full-page pictures with the text embedded in the illustrations.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page visual.  On the sky blue background with smudges of white is the bud.  It is placed in the center.  Its size makes us feel like a hummingbird.  Underneath the bud is the stalk with two sets of leaves on either side.  They are made in two hues of green.  The bud consists of layers in more colors of green gradually turning to yellow at the top.  These layers are so delicate, they look like tissue paper.  

For introducing readers or reminding readers of the wonder tucked inside seeds, A Seed Grows written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is magnificent.  At the close of the book, with her signature images, are pages describing Parts of a sunflower seed, Parts of a sunflower plant, What the seed needs to sprout, and the Life Cycle of a Sunflower Plant.  There is a More to explore section of eight books and a website.  This book needs to have a place on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Antoinette Portis has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the endpapers.  I believe you will enjoy this video.  Antoinette Portis takes us on a tour of her studio, gives us insight into two of her previous books, and we get to see some process art for this title.  

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