April 9, 2012
The first, Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, is a set of nature poems for toddlers by writer (and biologist) Nicola Davies. Each page or spread offers a few lines of simple free verse on one aspect of nature a child might encounter (in any season, not just spring)—a feather on the ground, say, or tadpoles in a pond, or a formation of geese in the sky. And each subject is illustrated by Mark Hearld with big, vivid strokes of brush, pen, and collage—a style reminiscent of old Golden Books editions I remember from my childhood. If that's any indication, Hearld's illustrations, and this book, will have a lasting impression on the young kids reading it now.
The second, Step Gently Out, has a similar theme of new creatures in springtime, but with two main differences. First, its text is one poem by Helen Frost that stretches through the entire book, just a few words on each page or spread. And second, its poetry is illustrated by often mind-blowing photography by Rick Lieder. It's the kind of imagery you usually see in science books for kids these days, or on video in nature documentaries—incredibly detailed and precise close-ups of bees gathering pollen from a flower, or butterflies drinking drops off a leaf. Using these photographs as the illustration for a poetry book, however, was a stroke of brilliance: It removes the clinical scientific aspect that nonfiction biology books for kids often find hard to shake, and replaces it with a reinforcement of the sense of wonder that's always been my first impression of images of this kind.
Each book is marvelous and even gasp-inducing at times on is own, but they also complement each other particularly well as a matching pair.
[Cover images courtesy of Candlewick Press]