Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Always There . . .

Early the other morning, before sunrise, the moon, a tiny sliver, was hanging above the golden horizon.  Can you see it framed by the still black lacelike tree branches?  That orb in all its phases has supplied this human with a sense of security and wonder never fading over decades. 
Fortunately and with gratitude, my canine companion ensures most days begin and end with views of the moon, when it is visible.  Within the past month, two newly-released picture books focus with great beauty on this celestial sphere.  We believe we are participants in the revelation of a secret when reading Moonlight (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, August 23, 2022) written and illustrated by Stephen Savage.

Something is on
the move.

We are not told what is on the move, but we follow it.  We shadow it as it traverses through a forest of trees and vines.  It boldly and quickly advances.

It seeks the path of a cascading waterfall and the river which catches that water.  Soon, we see it at sea.  There it appears to stow away on different vehicles, one on the water and the other in the air.

With the agility of an acrobat, it leaps from the sky to a towering point and then trails behind a train.  The train takes it from a pastoral landscape to a city scene.  It pauses.

In that pause, we know, for this day, the exploration has been completed.  We are reassured.  A new journey begins anew . . . tomorrow.

For readers and listeners, the first sentence penned by author Stephen Savage is an irresistible invitation.  It is a statement, but also a question we need to have answered.  For the next five page turns, descriptive, alliterative verbs take us from the forest to the sea.  In our minds, the question is still unanswered, so we proceed with heightened anticipation.  Six more page turns take us into a neighborhood.  We wait. Three final sentences give us our answer.

This technique of having portions of a sentence spread over several page turns makes the reading experience more inclusive for us.  We are captivated and curious.  Here are two of the sentence portions.

hopping off on
a mountaintop,

sliding down
silvery tracks,

The artwork on the dust jacket extends flap edge to flap edge.  On the front, right side, past the forest with the tiny bird in flight, a steamship moves to the right.  The moonlight plays on the water.  The title text is embossed in blue foil.  On the back, to the left of the spine, an airplane streaks past a tall palm tree, flying to the left.  From the dark foliage on the left side, the upper portion of an antelope's body is shown.  It is looking to the right.  The spare color palette, black, white and hues of blue are used throughout the book.

The book case is covered in a deep blue.  On the front the same circular shape, the moon, holds the title text.  This circle supplies a background for the words.  It is the blue foil.  The text is the same color as that used for the book case.

The opening and closing endpapers are either a dark, dark blue or black.  Going from the opening endpapers, the first illustration is wordless.  The moon is peeking between clouds in a blue and black sky.  Its light outlines nearby clouds in white.  For the title page, a double-page picture gives us a peaceful sea setting with the mountains and forest off to the left.

This artwork by Stephen Savage 

was created with Linocuts using Speedball water-based ink on Speedball Arnhem 1618 printmaking paper.

The lines made for each double-page image pair wonderfully with the text, fashioning an enchanting mood.  Color choices for each element lead us into spaces and along in the direction the moonlight takes.  We can almost feel the difference in temperature, sights and sounds as the moonlight progresses as it has for ages.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the moonlight graces the tops of mountains.  The leafless trees, aspens or birches, stand tall like guardians.  Behind them mountain peaks rise and fall. The entire area is covered in snow kissed by the light of the moon.  As the airplane moves to the right side of the page edge, an owl glides between two featured mountains.  In a word, this picture is serenity.  

Without a doubt, this title, Moonlight written and illustrated by Stephen Savage, will be a much requested title by a group of listeners or when caregivers are soothing their children into dreamland.  We could all use the lure of moonlight to lull us into sleep at the end of any day.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  (You must read the two dedications.  I got a little teary at both of them.)

To learn more about Stephen Savage and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Stephen Savage has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  On his Instagram account Stephen has some art process and some sneak peeks.  At the publisher's website, you can download a fun activity.  At Penguin Random House, you can view an interior image.  At Publishers Weekly, Stephen Savage is interviewed about this title.

In all weather and in all seasons, walking outdoors brings breathtaking vistas for all beneath the moon.  Certain factors can cause the moon to appear larger or to shift in color.  Sometimes there are rings of varying sizes around the moon.  No wonder animals howl at it, perhaps in appreciation.

In this next book, Hello, Moon (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 20, 2022) written and illustrated by Evan Turk, readers enjoy a tribute to the moon.  We wander outside with a parent and child witnessing the phases of the moon.  We experience its magical light night after night.

Look! The Moon!
Should we go say hello?

Coats, hats, and scarves now worn by the duo cover them as they stand on a hill beneath the moon.  A greeting is shouted.  A conversation continues between the child and the moon.  The moon is reminded that they will return.  And they do.

On another night, the child notices the moon seems to be disappearing.  The parent says little by little the moon is hiding until it is gone.  They go outside to comfort it in its apparent shyness.

Night after night they walk with the moon as it hides and gets smaller.  Some nights are windy and wild and others are silent and soothing.  On the night of the New Moon, they visit the now shuttered light.

The child encourages the moon to be fearless.  The stars surround it with light.  The child tells the moon, they will keep it company until it begins to shine again.  And they do.

Readers are immediately drawn into this story by the child wishing to greet the moon.  This pure inquisitiveness and eagerness is true and refreshing.  That the child continues to speak to the moon then and throughout the book establishes a kinship with not just the moon, but for all things of our natural world.

Evan Turk in this narrative uses dialogue between the parent and child and child and the moon to explain the phases of the moon splendidly.  The portions of the tale are tied together with the repetition of the title phrase each time the parent and child visit the moon.  Here is a passage.

Hello, Moon!
It's such a crisp, clear night.
I can barely see you, but that's okay.

When we're together,
we don't have to be afraid of the dark.

In looking at the open dust jacket it seems the front, right side, is a single-page picture with a more universal night sky on the front flap.  The entire dust jacket is shiny, but when you run your hands over the moon and title text, the texture is slightly rougher.  (Children will love that. I always directed my students to explore the dust jackets and book cases.)

Including the spine, all the way to the left flap edge is a vast skyscape at night.  The colors are deeper and more varied shades of blue and purple with stars of all sizes, resplendent in the sky.  At the bottom of the left flap and crossing the fold to the back is a rounded black hill.  Standing on this hill is the parent and child, tiny in comparison to the sky.  The parent's arms are raised in joy.

On the book case, beneath a sky more the colors on the front of the dust jacket, the parent and child, wearing red coats, stand, hand in hand.  This sky covers most of the back and front with a snowy portion at the bottom.  There we can see the footprints of the duo.  Stretched across this sky, left to right are eight moons.  Each is in a different phase.  

On the opening and closing endpapers is a deep midnight blue.  A part of a full moon hangs above the text on the title page in a sky with a few stars.  Whenever the parent and child are inside, the hues are warm and glowing.  Outside, the shades are blues, blacks, whites, grays, and purples.  Evan Turk made these double-page pictures

with marbling inks and gouache

There are wordless pages throughout the book; some of them are double-page images and others are a series of vertical panels across two pages to indicate the passage of time.  The shifting perspectives in the visuals realistically replicate standing beneath a moon and looking skyward.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of the moon half alight in the breezy darkness.  If you've ever walked in the snow on a windy night among the trees, you will understand the angle of the trees and snowy land as depicted by Evan Turk.  This scene gives a true sense of the speed of the wind.  The trees are leaning to the left.  As they are shown, it is as if the moon is nestled in their branches.  To the right of the trees, the parent and child stand in the snow, scarves billowing in the wind.  The parent is holding tightly to both hands of the child.  (I love that their coats are red.  This ties to the warmth found inside their home, but also contrasts well with the nightly color palette.)

Once this book, Hello Moon written and illustrated by Evan Turk, is read, you can expect many more moon watching excursions taken by readers.  This book offers a lovely explanation of the moon's phases within an affectionate parent and child relationship.  It is sure to inspire further research.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Evan Turk and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Evan Turk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view several interior images, including the open dust jacket.    

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