Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On the Wing by David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

I'm generally not a fan of poetry books *pauses while friends throw things at me* but poetic picture books can really work, if they bridge the gap between those who are uncertain/reluctant to check out poetry and the almost constant circulation of our picture books. David Elliott's picture books of short poems have always done very well for us. I've used selections in storytime, in displays, and they check out quite a lot.

When I borrowed this new one, I was at first confused that they'd switched to a new illustrator. Then I remembered that the illustrator for the previous three books in this series, Holly Meade, passed away several years ago. I was interested to see how the new illustrator, Becca Stadtlander, would measure up.

So, this follows the same format as the previous titles which explored animals in the sea, on the farm, and in the wild. Each spread or page features a different bird and a clever, majestic, or funny poem about them. I love that Elliott doesn't dumb down the language and uses such rich vocabulary as "conflagration" with ease. My favorite poem, personally, is "The Wandering Albatross" which has a lovely, haunting rhythm. Some of the poems are just a few lines, making them perfect for introducing very young children to both poetry and birds.

The new illustrator has a very different style from Meade's rough, colorful woodcuts, but it is a lovely combination with Elliott's poetry and fits the theme of birds beautifully. The delicate paintings capture the grace and loveliness of the birds as easily as their more quirky features and habits. From the sweeping majesty of the condor soaring far above the landscape to a flock of feisty sparrows, each bird is delicately and lovingly drawn with personality and verve.

Verdict: If, like me, you only purchase a few poetry books each year, make sure to include this continuation of a popular series on your list. The new illustrator was an excellent choice to continue the legacy of Elliott and Meade and take the series in a new direction. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780763653248; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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