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Breathtakingly magical.

A powerful homage to the natural world, from England by way of Canada.

Combining poetic words (somewhat reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poetry in their passion for the natural world) with truly stunning illustrations, this unusually beautiful book brings to readers the magic and wonder of nature. This is not a book about ecology or habitat; this is a book that encourages readers to revel in, and connect with, the natural world. Focusing on a particular subject, whether it be animal, insect, or plant, each poem (rendered in a variety of forms) delivers a “spell” that can be playful, poignant, or entreating. They are most effective when read aloud (as readers are encouraged to do in the introduction). Gorgeous illustrations accompany the words, both as stand-alone double-page spreads and as spot and full-page illustrations. Each remarkable image exhibits a perfect mastery of design, lively line, and watercolor technique while the sophisticated palette of warms and cools both soothes and surprises. This intense interweaving of words and pictures creates a sense of immersion and interaction—and a sense that the natural world is part of us. A glossary encourages readers to find each named species in the illustrations throughout the book­––and to go one step further and bring the book outside, to find the actual subjects in nature. Very much in the spirit of the duo’s magisterial The Lost Words (2018), this companion is significantly smaller than its sprawling companion; at just 6.5 by 4.5 inches when closed, it will easily fit into a backpack or generously sized pocket. “Wonder is needed now more than ever,” Macfarlane writes in the introduction, and this book delivers it.

 Breathtakingly magical. (Poetry. 6-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0779-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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An exquisite compendium celebrating America’s ornithological obsession from its Colonial origins to its fractious present.

A new anthology collects 235 years of American bird writing.

Can one diagnose the state of a nation through its attitude toward its aviary? This new volume from the Library of America makes such a project seem possible, assembling a centurieslong archive of U.S. bird writing that claims to act as nothing less than a “field guide to the American soul.” Indeed, a well-worn literary history can be wrought from these pages: From Lewis and Clark’s meticulous taxonomizing, through Thoreau’s starry-eyed transcendentalism, to Bishop’s magisterial modernism and the elegiac atmospherics of latter-day Erdrich. But lesser-known texts shine amid their star-studded company, such as Sarah Orne Jewett's early (1886!) environmentalist short fiction and John Hollander’s 1968 calligram in the shape of a swan and its reflection on a pond. The entries are unified by a sense of heightened attention induced by the writer’s encounter with a wild, flying thing; beyond this, however, the genres, moods, and styles are as diverse as the birds they catalog. (That said, 20th-century poetry gets more than its fair share of pages, and there is a disappointing but predictable preponderance of men to women writers.) On the whole, one gets the sense that birds hold a special symbolic place in the American experiment: a fantasy of freedom as manifest in flight, alluring yet unattainable, a perpetual promise remaining elusive even after the airplane. Robert Creeley writes the paradox beautifully: “The birds, / no matter they’re not of our kind, / seem most like us here. I want // to go where they go, in a way, if / a small and common one.”

An exquisite compendium celebrating America’s ornithological obsession from its Colonial origins to its fractious present.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59853-655-3

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A sometimes vivid yet uneven portrait of an artist’s many years traveling to and observing Iceland.

An American visual artist collects her writing from four decades of sojourns to Iceland.

Horn first traveled to Iceland in 1975 at age 19, and she has been drawn to the island ever since, as reflected in this combination of poetry, short essays, oral histories, architectural reviews, and environmental jeremiads. In the book’s first section, featuring pieces published in the 1990s, the author writes about what has kept her coming back: wild weather, uninterrupted horizons, and solitude—a holiday from “the friction of seeing and knowing.” Traveling by motorcycle, she camped in outbuildings and lighthouses, and she notes how Iceland’s lack of violence, reptiles, and large mammals was liberating for a traveling single woman. “Relief from fear is freedom,” she writes. Horn trains her artist’s eye on the country’s fantastic volcanic landscapes, black beaches and white surf, and hot springs found in every corner of the island. Sensually arresting, these passages are solitary meditations in an empty landscape; at times, readers long for someone else to show up. In the second section, the author offers a series of oral histories about the weather. These short installments, three pages at the most, are eloquent descriptions from ordinary people, testaments to the intricate dance between the islanders and their wild weather conditions: obliterating blizzards, relentless wind, and even incidents of freezing and drowning. A government commissioner calmly reports seeing spirits on his long walks through the lava fields, and older citizens express a generalized unease about climate change. The final sections feel padded: reprints of Horn’s environmental opinion pieces and meditations on specific island locations accompanied by images of previously published photographs that fail to illuminate the place. The first sections of the book will stoke the desire for a more in-depth study of Iceland; the others will interest veteran Iceland-watchers.

A sometimes vivid yet uneven portrait of an artist’s many years traveling to and observing Iceland.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-691-20814-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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