Archive for November 3rd, 2016


by Sam Juliano

About the only disservice to book lovers one can attach on the astounding picture book collaborations between Helen Frost and Rick Lieder is that it is near impossible to choose a favorite.  The problem is that all three of their books, released in successive years are masterpieces of the form, and picking one over the others might depend on what animal or insect subject interests you the most.  But we would all be much better off just taking a pass and appreciating this poetic and photographic hat trick as the most unique in the field we’ve yet encountered.  As an avowed romanticist I will be more audacious and declare that their third book in the trilogy, released months back, Among a Thousand Fireflies is their most transcendent work yet, and thoroughly warrants intense inspection by the Caldecott committee, who have the unique opportunity to honor a painstaking process that has yet to be acknowledged despite rule book eligibility. With the recent Caldecott honors awarded to graphic novels, we may well be reaching an all-inclusion phase.  Following up on the critically-lauded Step Gently Out and Sweep Up the Sun,  this new lyrical immersion  puts the magnifying glass both literally and figuratively on the firefly which some will recall received glowing prominence in Eric Carle’s classic The Very Lonely Firefly and in a famous poem by Helen’s namesake Robert Frost titled “Fireflies in the Garden” where the celebrated poet appears to exalt in the efforts of the minuscule firefly to emulate the stars above.  Two years back, Paul B. Janeczko and Melissa Sweet collaborated on a collection of poems, Firefly July, with the titular verse written by J. Patrick Lewis.

The aforementioned scrupulous technique that creates pristine pictorial contrast and luminosity are products of Lieder’s high definition photography, which yields images so precise and life-like that even the blu ray video equivalent lags behind.  Lieder’s intent is to allow readers to enter the world of his subjects and as a result to know more about their interactions within their habitats, and the inherent possibilities in the realm of nature.  His renowned poet in residence Frost is a master of language economy, one content to have all the human eyes focus on Lieder’s photographic miracles, yet to forge a lasting impact of language that lyrically sets the stage for some of the most glorious images the eye can behold.  This unusual wedding between rhythmical veracity and photographic authenticity bring an indelible focus on a world too often relegated to an afterthought about outdoor summer nights permeated by recurrent yellow sparkles.   (more…)

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