Harken to the wonder, let the magic begin.
Sometimes Mother Nature weaves her wizardry in mysterious ways. It’s amazing what can happen overnight.
In The Night the Forest Came to Town, Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson invite us to see for ourselves, as nature reclaims, renews and restores.
It was silent in the city
when the cracks began to form
in the evening late one summer
when the concrete was still warm.
While it’s business as usual for the adults (who are distracted and buried in their cell phones) the kids definitely know something is up. From “distant hills outside of town,” a wondrous wind blows in “a sudden rush of green,” a swirl of energy that spreads seeds everywhere.
At the same time, animals slowly emerge from deep in the forest. Squirrels, rabbits, owls, chipmunks and beavers roam together under a moonlit sky, instinctually drawn to what is happening in town.
Under cover of darkness, flocks of birds disseminate seeds for rooftop gardens, and with the welcome nourishment of steady rain, green saplings take root along the streets, shoots of grass border the sidewalks, and a vacant parking lot becomes fertile ground for seedlings.
The animals are busy too. A beaver builds a dam in the city square fountain, turning it into a pond for tadpoles and fish. At daybreak, early risers watch as an eagle builds a nest atop a park statue. They soon hear the first cry of a hungry baby bird. Miraculous!
With the full morning sun, “the sky turned azure blue,/and everywhere the children played the city grew . . . and grew.” The once dull gray city of concrete and steel has now been transformed into a bright, colorful haven of plants, trees, flowers, window boxes, and pure joy.
This captivating story will hook young readers from the opening lines, enchanting them with its lyrical text and evocative illustrations. Ghigna employs rhyming quatrains to brilliant effect, conjuring up bewitching images with his skillful use of poetic devices and sensory detail (“whispered echoes roam,” “hallowed hush of twilight,” “beneath the veil of twilight’s blush”). Reading aloud his beautiful lines amplifies the magic.
The carefully paced narrative coupled with Wilkinson’s engaging ‘dusk to dawn’ illustrations escalate the drama, building anticipation as it lures the reader into its spell. I like how the artist extended the narrative with child-centric commentary. She portrayed the adults as preoccupied, not noticing the changes taking place until nearly story’s end, when everyone appears awestruck and more attentive. Children do notice things adults miss, and I think they’ll appreciate being recognized for that, as well as knowing that the city continued to grow “everywhere the children played.” Empowering!
Most of Wilkinson’s pictures are rendered in gradually darkening shades of blue, creating a dream-like atmosphere of shadows and starry skies, where happy rather than frightful activities take place. As night gradually gives way to sunrise, a variety of colors becomes more distinct, so when the veil of night is finally lifted, the effect is spectacular!
The theme of natural reclamation is a good one for our overbuilt, uber electronic times. Much of the dolor of modern life is the result of a disconnect from the natural world and a lack of attention to what is truly meaningful.
Growth in any form is positive and uplifting, offering hope and fresh perspectives. The contrast between the disengaged people we see in the beginning vs. the happy people tending a community garden at the end will hopefully inspire us all to cultivate a little wonder now and again and work towards preserving natural habitats.
Embrace the miraculous. Let the beauty in!
THE NIGHT THE FOREST CAME TO TOWN
written by Charles Ghigna
illustrated by Annie Wilkinson
published by Orca Book Publishers, 2018
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
🌳 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY 🌺
The publisher is generously offering a brand new copy of this book for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, March 27, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with FOREST in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good luck!
Rebecca Herzog is hosting the Roundup at Sloth Reads. Zip over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week!
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH KIDLITOSPHERE EVENTS ROUNDUP
April is just a little over a week away, and it’ll soon be time to celebrate National Poetry Month. Are you doing something special on your blog? If so, please send me your info so I can add it to my annual NPM Kidlit Events Roundup. My email: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com.
Please help spread the word. Thanks! Looking forward to hearing what you’ll be up to!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2018 Charles Ghigna, illustrations © 2018 Annie Wilkinson, published by Orca Book Publishers. All rights reserved.
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***Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.