Friday, November 28, 2014

Changes, Changes: Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston and Jim LaMarche

It's a cold September day.

Fall is still here, but I feel it.

Winter is coming.

The trees are still glowing with autumn colors, but the cool wind that ruffles the girl's hair beneath her red hoodie tells a different story. Things are changing.

As she sits quietly in her tree house in the woods with her drawing pencil and notebook, the girl realizes that the animals foresee the changes, too.

A red fox slips into the clearing.that I am watching.

First-sun hits hits his back, the fox shining like a small fire.

I am quiet, quiet.

The red fox sniffs the last apple. Wrinkled or not,

It's food, and winter is coming.

As the autumn passes and the girl returns to her post with notebook and binoculars, she sees other animals, a doe and her fawn snuffling through the leaves, a skunk whose scented calling card precedes him, and even a mother bear and her big cub scratching in the leafy litter for a stray nut and a lynx, like a "lynx of Egypt, eyes the color of the moon," ghosting quietly along behind the rabbits who have left off gnawing the dried weeds.

A woodpecker riddles the tree with holes.

Animals do not waste.

Winter is coming.

Noted author Tony Johnston's Winter Is Coming (Simon & Schuster, 2014) delineates the watcher in the woods through the changes of the fall months in lovely blank verse, while artist Jim LaMarche portrays the signs of earth's turning season, sometimes through the eyes of the girl, sometimes from a higher perspective, as we watch the girl watching the animals, and sometime from below, as we look up to see a flyover formation of Canada geese going south. LaMarche's nuanced gouache, ink, and pencil illustrations are perfectly married to Johnston's evocative prose so that the reader feels the wind, smells the woody leaves, and hears the quiet and the ruffles of the dying leaves as the animals pass below. Even if fall and winter are not favorites, they are part of the cycle of life, and Johnston and LaMarche portray that theme in perfect harmony. A glorious blend of writer and artist that captures the feeling of fall's moments in time.



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