February 16, 2016

More Trees

About a year ago I talked about picturebooks centered on French trees. At the time I'd just come across a ton of them, and it seemed appropriate to write about them. I recently bought Britta Teckentrup's Tree, and thought I'd revisit the subject, though this time opening it up a bit.

Depictions of trees in picturebooks can have a range of dynamism—with the changing seasons we get different colors, styles, and interpretations. Today we’ll be talking about Marc Martin’s A Forest, Britta Teckentrup's Tree, Julia Rawlinson’s and Tiphanie Beeke’s Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, and Carin Berger’s The Little Yellow Leaf, all of which showcase a wide range of artistic styles and techniques that reflect the illustrators’ strengths and breadths of technique.

First on today's list is Marc Martin's debut picturebook A Forest. I found this book when I was in the UK for work and the second I saw it I knew I wanted it. You guys, this book is BEAUTIFUL. Although the illustrations are technically mixed media, Martin primarily uses watercolor. And he does it in the exact right way, intensifying destructive moments with dense, heavy brush strokes and then calming things down with sparse, light coloring. A Forest recounts the tale of a nameless forest that's torn down by greedy industrialists and replaced with a city. Nature wins out in the end, essentially drowning the city and washing it away, leaving one tree to eventually turn into a forest. The text is sparse and carefully framed by the illustrations, amplifying the message on each page.

Britta Teckentrup's Tree is up next. Each spread takes us through the four seasons as seen by an owl in a tree. There are cut outs on each page (even the cover) that grow in number as more and more animals and parts of nature are introduced. But when the snow comes, the animals (and the cutouts) start to disappear, leaving only the owl. The design of the book is great: Teckentrup's screenprint-esque illustrations are colorful, playful, and engaging, and the cutouts only enhance the feeling of fun and energy that comes from moving from winter to spring. The last spread is my favorite, but it's worth picking up the book and going through it before you see it.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson and Tiphanie Beeke tells the story of a fox who watches the leaves of his favorite tree disappear as the season moves from fall to winter. One of the best parts of the book is that it starts before we even get to the title page. The recto page of the opening endpapers features Fletcher holding a springtime leaf (it's green) and then we get a wordless springtime spread, followed by a small image of Fletcher and his mom in the fields surrounding the tree. This provides such a lovely window into why Fletcher is so distressed about his tree--we see just how much it means to him and how he's grown up with it all spring season. The illustrations are made from watercolor and bleed between spreads and images. The last spread is breath-taking, providing a entirely different range of colors than we've seen the entire book, and the bits of glitter that serve as gleaming icicles are a wonderful touch.

Last but not least we have The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. Almost the opposite of Fletcher, this book tells the story of fall from a leaf's perspective. All of the leaves fall from a tree except for Little Yellow Leaf, who's not sure it's ready to move on. As we get deeper and deeper into fall, then winter, and finally spring, the leaf endures it all, from wind to snow, until finally, another leaf shows up and helps it move on. The mixed media illustrations are clean cut and well designed, with strong geometrical shapes and newspaper collages that have a serene yet earnest feel.

That's all for this week. A special thank you to @heatherleegee for the photos, and as I said in the post about French trees, save trees and write blog posts instead! See you next week.

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