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Monday, November 10, 2014

Winter Is Coming, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Jim LaMarche. Simon & Schuster. 2014. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"October is gone.
Moon rises early.
A ways off, a lynx ghosts
A lynx with black-tipped
ears. A lynx with Egypt
eyes. A lynx the color
of moon.
My mother says wild things
are full of light."

As hard as it is to accept the reality that winter is indeed on its way, you just have to look outside and feel the chill in the air to know that it is inevitable. The young girl in Tony Johnston's engaging new book knows it, too. Using a sketchbook, binoculars and an inordinate amount of patience in one so young, she spends much of her time wandering through the woods near her farm home. She begins in September:

"The red fox sniffs the last apple
on our apple tree. The apple is wrinkled
like my grandma's face.
But, wrinkled or not, it is food.
And winter is coming."

From her platform perch, she is able to remain close enough to quietly watch the wildlife...the fox and a bear and its mother in September, a skunk family, woodpeckers, and rabbits in October. Then November arrives, and her days are spent watching and drawing a lynx, some chipmunks, a mother doe and her two fawns. Canada geese rise into the air and fly off to warmer climes, entertaining with their loud song.

In the final short days before winter's arrival, she shares what she has learned:

"We can learn from animals, my father says.
About patience. About truth. About quiet.
About taking only what you need
from the land because
we are just its keepers."

Ready or not, here comes winter. This would be a winning way to celebrate its arrival.

Once again, I am floored by the extraordinary illustrations created by Jim LaMarche using acrylics, colored pencils and opaque inks. His richly colored landscapes make the coming of winter bearable, enticing readers to make the outdoors a place for exploration and discovery. His amazing use of light and his changing perspectives are trademarks of the work he does. The focus for each spread is the young girl and her tree perch. If you have a naturalist on your Christmas list, this book would be a perfect gift!

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