Nature is an Artist

Nature is an Artist
Jennifer Lavallee and Natalia Colombo
Greystone Kids

Nature has many awesome qualities not least of which is its incomparable artistry – its beauty and its incredible variety: that is what this book explores and celebrates.

There is complete harmony between author Jennifer Lavallee’s rhyming text and Natalia Colombo’s striking illustrations of nature – both its manifestations and the green being that leads a group of five children on an exploratory journey through various beautiful natural landscapes showing them the sunrise over some hills; a field alive with buzzing bees and daisies growing in abundance around the trees; the rich colours of summer flowers in full bloom as they begin to scatter the petals. 

Next, resting on a rock at the water’s edge, nature shows itself as sculptor extraordinaire, carving and moulding rocks and clay. Then hidden deep beneath the ground lies evidence of nature’s etchings – those fossil impressions making patterns we all so love to find; 

while with rain and sun together, high up in the sky, nature creates a rainbow: a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colours, a prism up above.

As the children witness each stunning landscape one of their number with nature now as teacher/mentor is inspired to recreate what they’ve seen in art of their own making: one by finger painting, another making a colour paper collage, one sculpts towers in sand; fossil etchings are done by stamping various shapes on a large sheet 

and a rainbow is formed from torn tissue paper pasted on a glass jar and a lighted tealight within to provide the glow.

Whether used in a classroom or at home, those with whom this book is shared should not only develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world but also be motivated to try some of the art techniques the book includes.

Taking Time

Taking Time
Jo Loring-Fisher
Lantana Publishing

This is simply exquisite. In eleven different parts of the world, children savour the moment: on each double spread there is a gorgeous, mixed media scene showing a young boy or girl in an everyday setting relishing the beauty of the surroundings.

A little girl somewhere in India pauses to listen to the song of a bird;

a boy collects pink blossoms as they fall from a tree: ‘ Taking time to listen to / a bird’s song on the breeze. // Taking time to gather up the blossom dancing free.’ (I love Jo’s use of rhyming couplets on consecutive spreads here and throughout the book).

Far away in Alaska a child snuggles in the soft fur of a husky dog; indoors another child feels a soft cat, ‘taking time to feel the beat’ of its ‘rhythmic purr’.

A spider spins its web watched in awe by a little girl in Nepal, while in the Egyptian desert, clutched by a loving adult, a small child contemplates their journey.

The immensity of the evening sky, a passing flock of colourful birds,

the kind, reflecting eyes of a grandparent, soft snowflakes as they float gently down, the imagined sounds of the sea echoing in a shell – all these too are cherished moments for those who take time for awareness of the here and now.

On the final spread all the children come together in a verdant green field to share their wonderings as they play harmoniously with their special keepsakes: ‘Taking time to cherish you, / and also cherish me.’

Both sets of endpapers show details from the illustrations, the front ones annotating a world map marking the children’s homelands – Alaska, Ecuador, the U.K., Norway, Russia, Egypt, Tanzania, India, Nepal, China, and Japan;  the back ones depicting just the keepsakes, cleverly creating a matching game for readers to play.

If you have, or work with, young children, I urge you to share Jo’s beautiful book, showing similar slow mindfulness to that demonstrated by her characters in Taking Time.