by Sam Juliano
The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
From the rapturous cover of a fox on the prowl for rabbits, frogs croaking around a stream and crickets bringing some special measure of authenticity to the book’s title, by way of a fancy current red in cursive to the oval back cover of a boy fast asleep in his bedroom, Cricket Song may well be the year’s most intoxicating picture book. Anne Hunter’s ink and watercolor art is not only astonishingly beautiful but sensory, evoking as it does a place governed by reverberating sounds and a scents as keen as anywhere in the natural world. Geographical, aquatic, and metaphysical kinship are established early on, and Hunter subsequently chronicles this initial flirtation and eventual immersion with nature, the most integral aspect of lives separated by a vast ocean.
The fox is again seen in the title page spread, applying his senses acutely while stalking his prey. The opening burst of lyricism marvelously opines that the “evening breeze” rises to meet the night that began upon the setting of the sun. A hilly terrain along the water is spied by crickets perched on blades of grass with the shadows of trees negotiated in cross pattern. A small house is set back slightly as dusk is yielding to nocturnal atmospherics. But the breeze has another function, one that supersedes weather related responsibilities – the breeze is a vessel for the song of the crickets which wafts through an open window of a room adorned with dark blue walls, stars and planets. The boy snuggles with a sea otter, while a cat sleeps at the foot of the bed. The painting hanging on the wall bears thematic kinship with the rectangular paintings that run across the bottom of each subsequent page in the book. While there is no audible competition for the cricket song indoors, it is quite another story in the wild, where the kreck kreck kreck of the frogs in the stream brings a second instrument to this outdoor evening concert in this sleep inducing canvas. (more…)