In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three migrating animals

Dear Aunt Debbie,

While you were hanging out at the National Book Festival listening to excellent YA authors, we were having Isabel's third birthday party, a few days before her actual birthday.  Less of a crowd for our event, but I'm guessing better cake.

One of the presents Isabel received from friends is a gorgeous picture book by James Prosek: Bird, Butterfly, Eel.  I hadn't heard of Prosek before, but he's an interesting guy, as his website attests: just about my age, an accomplished painter, author, naturalist, and activist.  Most of his books are for adults, and starting with Trout: An Illustrated History, most have something to do with fish, and are sumptuously illustrated with his paintings.

Bird, Butterfly, Eel begins by depicting these three animals on a Connecticut farm.  The text is spare and calm:

It's summer on the farm, and bird, butterfly, and eel are at home.

Butterfly is a monarch.
She lives in the meadow behind the pond.

Eel lives in the dark, cool waters of the pond, below the lilies.

Bird lives in the barn at the end of the meadow, in nests she made of mud and straw.
She loves being safe, high up in the rafters, away from the barn cats.

Each double-page spread opens one of these habitats in luscious detail:

When fall comes, each animal begins her migration journey.  There's a map, and an astounding page of facts -- who knew that barn swallows flew eight thousand miles to Argentina, or monarch butterflies three thousand to Mexico?  Before their return, there's a lovely page depicting the loneliness of winter, with the details of Prosek's artistic craft left lying on the table:

We sat down to read this book for the first time last night, and it felt like the perfect respite after a party-filled day.  A book about observation, beauty, and facts of the natural world.  Both girls seemed calmer as we finished, and I've found myself returning to the images all day today.

Love, Annie

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