Two picture book reviews for you today, that reflect the enduring power and wonder in nature. Whether you are a creationist or big-bang theorist, it seems likely that many species predate us and have been surviving, often despite us, through instinctive and beautiful patterns of behaviour passed on through the genes from one generation to the next.
The Flight of the Snow Geese by Deborah King
We are launched aloft through a subtle, two paged spread of an urban, night sky and the words:
“While the city sleeps,
in the still of the night,
the white birds of winter
make their flight.”
Deborah King will take us on a melodic journey with these majestic birds, as they leave the snowy, northern arctic and flee south. The sensitive, rhyming text whispers to the large illustrations detailing the strength of these birds. We fly over different landscapes, observed by different peoples. Nor are we spared the loss of many, as the hunting season opens!
Some pages contain pastels of two or three close-up detailed geese and others of a hundredfold flock descending by dawn on a lake…. And the poetry trips you along gently until they reach a peaceful valley and safe, southern destination – that is, of course until the north wind beckons to revive the ancient cycle.
The text and exuberant illustrations capture the eternal cycle, its strength, its vulnerability, its beauty.
A book for those children who find themselves mesmerized by the wisdom of nature.
The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon, paintings by Gary Blythe
Another “quiet book”, published in 1991; not the snappy, active, short style of many of today’s picture books, yet with an enduring charm, I believe. Grandma shares her memories with her granddaughter of the hours spent waiting in silence for one of those rare and precious visits from the whales. She would sit patiently on a rocky outcrop with some special gift for these mammals; a conch shell or maybe a beautiful pebble – a gift ready to exchange for the gift of hearing those huge beasts sing.
As with the previous book, the illustrations and text manage to give a sense of the timelessness of these animals. Grandma’s reverie is interrupted by her practical brother, criticizing such “nonsense”, and advocating lessons on whale meat and blubber for his great niece instead.
This child is, however, a girl after her grandmother’s heart, and she spends the following day down by the beach eagerly waiting until, at dusk, her uncle cutting short her vigil. She enters sleep and dreams, which contain these mighty sea creatures. Startled awake, she hurries to the sea, where her yellow flower is the offering of friendship and she too hears the song of the whales.
The paintings are somber, mystical, almost eerie and post impressionist, totally fitting the fact/fantasy nature of the story.
There are many ways to share a love of animals with children and beautiful, lyrical fiction, as we find in these two books, is one effective way.
# 78 and 79 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.