Archive for January 6th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Into the sea, the starfish
casting them back into the living waters
giving them a chance, an opportunity
a choice of life
in the loving arms
the warm embrace
the seas of the father
Spreading the message of the son
the grace of the trinity
living within us
Casting starfish into the sea        -Raymond A Foss

In each and every year the Caldecott Medal Contender series has staged at Wonders in the Dark, there are a few children’s books that for various reasons associated with publisher size and promotional funding, have not been squarely under the radar of those making predictions or compiling their own year-end lists.  Often discoveries are made down the line, especially in the instance of writers or artists having achieved previous critical successes.  Maine-based nature illustrator Jamie Hogan won wide acclaim in 2017 for her monochrome art in the service of Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, which was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Public Library Board.  A few books later and Hogan has in the view of this writer entered the sacred pantheon of books worthy of Caldecott attention with the quietly powerful and sensory Ana and the Sea Star, released by Tilbury House Publishers.

The most celebrated picture book depicting a young girl and her father spending some time together at a rocky shore location in the Pine Tree State was Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott Honor winning One Morning in Maine published way back in 1952.  Heck, it is probably the most famous book featuring that human dynamic set in any state, though on the surface the story of loose-toothed Sal, who talks to the fish hawks and the loons en route to her Dad to help dig clams along the shore is slight and scene-specific.  Yet what the two-time Caldecott Medal winner does with his slice-of-life drama is to document coming-of-age and familial bonding under the prism of imagination and gently wrought trial and tribulation.  Seemingly the most innocuous situation turns out a be a defining moment in adolescent maturation, one anchored in the symbolism of a lost primary tooth, and one of those indelible moments destined for permanent record in the mind’s scrap-book.  There is an acute literary kinship between McCloskey’s unforgettable sensory immersion and Ana and the Sea Star by R. Lynne Roelfs, a work that similarly places youthful wishes front and center during the most formative years. (more…)

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