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In a work that attempts to capture the creative process of seeing and drawing, sparse, poetic descriptions of the natural world by Berry (Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird, 1995, etc.) combine with crisp, labeled landscape studies, sketches, and paintings by Florczak (illustrator of Audrey Wood's The Rainbow Bridge, 1995). The link between text and illustration, always critical in a picture book but particularly crucial in this one, is established from the outset: ""I saw the sun/a bearded saint in bliss/curled in a face of fire"" is accompanied by three different views of clouds that extend the metaphor not literally--there are no saints or faces--but abstractly, only hinting at curly, fiery, beard-like shapes. Thus Florczak adds to the text by interpreting it with a poetry of his own. What becomes clear to readers is that the ability to look at the surrounding world and reproduce it, not just as it is but with interpretive license (in words or paint) and understanding, separates the artists from the replicators and recorders. Not all of the scenes illuminate the words so well: A creek is too placid for the line ""a silver road selfmade/ignoring boundaries,"" and despite an artist's note explaining a cumulative, four-page painting that incorporates the sketched elements into an idealized whole, it still works against the more humble pages that have preceded it. Those pages imply a trust, nudging readers to glean their own dramatic insights into the ways of the poets and artists.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace