In this smashing book we share an outdoor adventure with three lively young human protagonists and dog Bean whose favourite thing is hiking.
With Wren seemingly, acting as narrator, we see them setting off together up Buck Mountain running ‘like maniacs’ through the forest until a patch of ripe berries slows them down and having gorged themselves, El teaches the others how to make leaf baskets.
Continuing on up a steep narrow trail, they get lost. But thanks to Hattie’s map- reading skills, they find the way back onto the trail.
Taking delight in the fauna and flora they pass – the tiny snail, the fleetingly-there deer, the birds, the fish, the wild flowers (each one labelled) – eventually the girls reach the summit.
There, under a beautiful yellowish-pink sky they celebrate by waving a flag (Wren), reading a poem (El) and releasing feathers into the wind (Hattie).
Celebration over, they head back home beneath a starry sky.
There’s SO much to love about this uplifting story: the children’s determination and perseverance, their camaraderie and above all, their joie-de-vivre and the pleasure each in her own way, takes in the natural world.
Within the pleasingly designed gouache, ink and pencil spreads the hikers share with readers, comments via speech bubbles, additional details courtesy of Wren’s sketchbook and after the story eight further pages of illustrated, more detailed notes from the sketchbook.
Immersive, exciting, and hopes this reviewer, a book that will motivate youngsters to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature whatever the weather.
What John Marco Saw
Annie Barrows and Nancy Lemon
In contrast to his family and neighbours who are preoccupied with their own private worlds, young John Marco notices the world around him.
But nobody’s interested in the big green grasshopper with black bulging eyes chewing grass,
the worms or the fossil in the rock, not even the big old orange cat with her stomach ‘almost dragging on the ground she was so fat’ that went ‘prr-rrup’ when he sat close by.
Surely though when he reports that there’s a tree falling down in the front yard – albeit slowly – somebody will pay attention. But despite Mum’s ‘Trees don’t just fall down” – yes, she does finally come and look – fall it does just like he’d said several times before.
Could this event herald the start of John Marco receiving what he and the things he reports on, deserve – the attention of everyone around. Maybe, just maybe …
An unusual, wryly observed demonstration that it’s wise to listen to what children have to say, and a reminder to us all to slow down and take note of the small things in life.