Dean Michael Sampson Shares A Book: Listen to Our World
Listen to Our World
By Bill Martin Jr. & Michael Sampson, illus. by Melissa Sweet
A Paula Wiseman Book. Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, ages 4-8, $17.99
Although this charming, attractive book has two impressive authors, it’s the illustrator, Melissa Sweet who claims attention first, as is true with most children’s books, and as it should be. With a surefire command of her medium, watercolor, with pencil outline, Ms. Sweet makes letters an integral part of her compositions, a natural combination for an artist whose works include The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and A River of Words. Each page of this new book is a beautiful design of color, surprising hues brought together to fill out whimsical animal shapes. It’s easy to see why Ms. Sweet has won so many prestigious awards for her books, both fiction and nonfiction. In an interview she gave not too long ago she said that she loved “the translucency and quality of watercolor paint . . . how certain colors react to each other, for instance, raw umber and Antwerp blue become a sort of speckled blue-brown when the paint dries.”
Of course, text is important. Here it takes the form of presenting “Big, small, black, brown—all kinds of animals” that make their home in our world. “From the jungle to the mountains or your own backyard,” the authors write, “all you need to do is listen.” The theme is welcome in our age where loud, insistent electronic media dominate the learning world and children rarely have a chance to concentrate on subtle sound. Martin, who died in 2004, wrote over 300 books for kids, and Sampson, a New York Times bestselling children’s book author, and dean of the School of Education at St. John’s University, bring to the text wide experience and thoughtful themes, they have arranged the book where the first sounds —squawks— are given over to bright parrots that “flit and fly” around a giant kapok tree in the rain forest. These, and the sounds that follow, will be enjoyed by most of the children who will be turning the pages with their parents. Gila monsters hissing as they crawl around a cactus; bald eagles soaring “weee-aaa” over the wilderness; monkeys swinging on vines; baby pandas chewing on sprouts in a bamboo forest; crocodiles gliding through the algae in the marshland where an adorable frog sits safely away; kangaroos hopping in the outback; lions pouncing about on the savanna; penguins waddling at the South Pole; elephants honking away as they find cool water in the grassland and finally, the cover animals, whales wahhing in the blue sea. A three-page fact spread at the end provides a few details about each animal, with natural but exotic habitats indicted. The last animal listed is “children,” and it’s suggested that they live all over the world and some near us!
The text invites readers to contribute on their own, to relate these animals to those children see every day, small birds, cats, dogs, farm creatures. As a four-year old human animal might well say: “wowwwwwwww.” #