Friday, November 14, 2014

Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

I grew up loving Tony Johnston's Amber on the Mountain and of course I love LaMarche's gorgeous, colorful, emotional paintings. Who doesn't? However, I was doubtful about liking this because it seemed too...poetic. Books of poetry don't do well in my library.

I am so glad I gave it a chance. This is a stunning, beautiful book. The story begins with the endpapers; upon opening the book you see clean notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, and binoculars. Moving into the story, a girl carries all these supplies to her observation post in the tree. The first page reads

"It is a cold September day. Fall is still here but ice is in the air. I feel it. Winter is coming."

From there, simple, poetic language accompanies the girl's observation of the wildlife and forest as winter approaches ever nearer. She sees a fox, bears, chipmunks, deer, a lynx. All of them searching for food and preparing for winter. Some of them will not survive, but that is the natural cycle of nature. Finally,

"Today no animals come.
Not one.
The clearing the trees are filled with
And wildness.
And cold.
They are waiting for something.
Winter is coming."

And then, in a few more brief pages, winter is here. In the final wordless spread the girl walks through the snow back to her warm house and the last set of endpapers show the sketches and notes she's made of the animals she's seen.

LaMarche's paintings always seem to have an inner glow but these are, I think, the best he has ever done. Each spread captures a different hue of autumn, from rich gold to softly fading brown. Each page is a different part of autumn, a different animal preparing. You can feel the silence and chill of the fading season.

Verdict: If you only buy one "literary" picture book for the year, make it this one. I've added it to my personal wishlist, which I don't often do. Highly recommended. A beautiful, beautiful book.

ISBN: 9781442472518; Published 2014 by Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

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