Shawn Dougherty, illus. by Leah Busch. Blue Manatee (IPG, dist.), $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-936669-60-8
Newcomer Dougherty and illustrator Busch (Your Red Shoes) trace a boy’s nighttime escapade. After being awakened by an owl’s call, he dashes outdoors, barefoot and dressed only in pajama pants, and scrambles up a rocky hill on his way to an enormous oak tree. Dougherty’s text leaves no question about how deeply the boy feels about his natural surroundings, but the poetic quality of the writing is mismatched to the first-person narration. Though lovely, such phrases as “Grandmother’s moonflowers tickle my ankles and toes, fragile trumpets open wide to the silver moonlight” don’t come across as terribly believable expressions of the boy’s thoughts and reactions. Busch largely sticks to a palette of muted gray-blues and violets in her watercolor scenes; rough splashes of paint give the pages a hazy, dreamlike quality that dovetails with the whispers of the oak and owl the boy hears. “Wake!” the oak tells him. “Feel the current of the secret spring deep beneath us.” Though not a restful story, per say, it’s a contemplative reminder of the intense connections one can make with nature. Ages 5–7. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/24/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Children's
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