No doubt that one of a book lover’s biggest joys is to see books published with excellent design. When it comes to picture books, Candlewick Press is definitely a publisher to turn to for high-quality books and outstanding design.

Read the last Seven Impossible Things on the 2012 BolognaRagazzi Awards.

Full disclosure: I might get accused of sucking up since they’re publishing a book I’m currently writing with two other folks, to be released next year, but you can ask my friends who knew me as a blogger previous to my book deal. I often could be heard commenting on how simply beautiful many of their picture book titles are.

Case in point is zoologist and author Nicola Davies’ Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, illustrated by British artist Mark Hearld and released in early February. “This book has been a joy to illustrate,” Hearld says in his back-flap author’s bio. “Nicola’s text is so observant and particular, its rich cast of creatures a delight to bring to life.”

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And that’s just it: Both writing and art are particular and observant, as well as lyrical and striking. An intriguing blend of nonfiction and poetry, Davies—dividing the book into seasons—pens tributes to just about everything, including the distinct sounds of ponds, the patience required of acorns, milking a cow, beachcombing and nearly everything in between. Not all (but most) of these entries are poems, most of them free verse. The book closes with instructions on “seed saving,” as well as a recipe or two. Berry crumble. Mmm! That page ends with simply “Eat. Yum.” Indeed.

Davies is at turns precise (“Apples grown for cider: Gravensteins / and Tolman Sweets. / Apples grown for pies: / Ginger Golds and Northern Spies”) and evocative (“Dandelions bloom like little suns. / But the flowers don’t last long— / they fold up like furled umbrellas pointing at the sky”). Quite obviously, this is a spot-on choice for elementary science teachers, but let us not forget language arts teachers, as Davies uses metaphor, rich imagery, onomatopoeia and much more to bring the seasons and all they inhabit to life.

Hearld’s mixed-media illustrations are brimming with life and movement, bursting to the edges of each spread. His earth-toned palette is accentuated all the more when he intervenes with the pinks, purples, reds and oranges of things like flowers and fruit, not to mention the warm yellows and light blues of morning skies. Many of these look like cut-paper collage and exude warmth and a brisk energy.

It’s a real treat to see such a lovingly, thoughtfully designed book, a big book with a real presence. (And you want to be sure to remove the jacket flap to see the cover, not to mention the retro endpapers.) This is one of those books you run your hand over and flip through and generally ooh and ahh about before you even read the first page and take in Hearld’s expansive spreads.

It’s simply not to be missed.

Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.