Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, July 21, 2022

In Stillness A Surprise

If and when one is seen, it is like witnessing a miracle.  Whether by design or suddenness, a sighting of these insects is to be remembered.  You will recall the place and the time of year.  This reader can count on one hand the number of times one has been seen.  It has been nearly a decade since the last one was discovered.

As skilled hunters, they sit unmoving and silent.  They become a part of their surroundings.  Their shape and size gives them the appearance of being misplaced in time.  Wait--and See (Candlewick Press, May 10, 2022) written by Helen Frost with photography by Rick Lieder is the sixth collaboration between these two talented creators.  This poetic and pictorial celebration of the praying mantis is also a challenge to readers to adopt a slower pace of living, encouraging us to look with a closer eye at whatever environment in which we find ourselves.

If a quick small
takes you by

You will want to become a statue except for your eyes.  What was that quick movement?  Is there something you nearly missed?  If you are among greenery, you might be near a praying mantis.  

If you are as still as it is, soon you will see this predator capture a meal.  Make sure you remember the shape and size of this praying mantis.  It will help you to spot one in the future.

If you visit this space again, you might notice another event unfolding.  From a brown sac, hundreds of tiny mantises fall.  Will you be able to view their growth?  Be patient.  Be quiet and unmoving.

Rhyming couplets by Helen Frost reveal a world hidden to those who have not yet learned to pause and peer.  In her words, we are asked and reminded of the wondrous riches revealed when we look closer, wait, and be still.  Her text speaks to the characteristics of the praying mantis and the hatching of new praying mantises.  Here is a passage.

Is that a praying mantis,
brown and green,

standing still,
trying not to be seen?

In a word, the photographs we first see on the open dust jacket (and throughout the book) by Rick Lieder are stunning.  They not only showcase his skill but exemplify his ability to wait and see.  The details displayed in his focus and perception take us directly into the world of the praying mantis.

To the left of the spine, on the back, diffused lighting gives us an array of green and gold for a background.  On the left side, our eyes are drawn to a bent stem (or blade of grass).  On the right side, a praying mantis rests on that stem or blade.

The book case is covered in a pale turquoise.  It is almost looks like mint green.  It is bare except for the center of the front.  Here is an embossed praying mantis in the same color.  (Children love to run their fingers over raised details on jackets and book cases.  So do I.)

Two different photographs are spread across the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first, it appears to be daylight.  A praying mantis is positioned underneath a narrow leaf.  It is much darker in the second visual.  The praying mantis is posed on top of a leaf with other leaves above and below it on a stem.

The two-page illustration for the title page is breathtaking.  The close-up of blossom stems and a blossom supply a setting fit for a praying mantis to stop.  Each page turn provides readers with a page-and-one-half, two-page or single-page picture.  Text is embedded in the photographs or within a generated column of solid color.  You will find yourself gasping at the close-up points of view.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page photograph.  Beginning at the center bottom on the left side, crossing the gutter, and extending to the right edge is an evergreen branch.  Behind it is faded greens, golds and a touch of pale peach or pink,  Atop this branch is a praying mantis.  Its head is turned to look directly at readers.  The details are astounding.

The team of author Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder have delivered a marvelous look at nature for readers in Wait---and See.  At the close of the book, opposite the final photograph of tiny praying mantises on buttercups, is a page of notes about the praying mantises in this book and their characteristics and life habits.  This will make a splendid addition to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Helen Frost and Rick Lieder and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Helen Frost has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Rick Lieder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

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