cover image Earth Mother

Earth Mother

Ellen Jackson, , illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. . Walker, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8992-1

A spare text and stunning artwork introduce Earth Mother, an elegant African-American woman dressed in intricately patterned robes, who keeps watch over all creation. After awakening with the dawn, she "walked across the land singing a morning song [and] placed a piece of summer in a flower's seed." For her purposeful wanderings in the African savannah, she wears "a robe fringed with falling rain," and the Dillons portray her replenishing the dry land with water. Later, they paint her Zeus-like, hurling thunderbolts from a mountain peak. In her travels, she encounters three beings who reveal nature's cycle in a kind of refrain. Man thanks Earth Mother for the frogs he catches for breakfast but complains of the mosquito's bites ("If there were more frogs and no mosquitoes... this world would be perfect"); a frog, grateful for the mosquitoes that fill his belly, grumbles about Man (without whom "this world would be perfect"); and a mosquito fears the frog but is grateful for Man, on whom she feasts. For each, the square framed paintings depict Earth Mother listening patiently; finally she bids good night to "her children everywhere.... And the world, in its own way, was perfect." Rendered in watercolor and colored pencils and featuring an effectively muted palette, the Dillons' illustrations capture the spiritual aura of Jackson's graceful words. Large-scale images of flora native to the habitats flank the depictions of Earth Mother's activities, further underscoring nature's bounty and beauty. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)