I am venturing into the world of recommending my favorite newly published picture books. I plan to recommend a select few of my very favorite picture books published with the past year or two. Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is the first book that I shared with you, and here is the second: Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld.
Outside Your Window stands out not because it conveys the most compelling story or features the most exquisite illustrations (although I am a huge new fan of Mark Hearld’s work) but because it is a beautiful book. Outside Your Window is a beautiful book from its thick pages to its beautifully chosen fonts to its secret second cover hidden beneath the book jacket. Outside Your Window is also, in part, a beautiful book because it contains keenly observant poems by author Nicola Davies and breathtakingly gorgeous illustrations by artist Mark Hearld.
Outside Your Window is a collection of poems about nature grouped by season. I know what you are thinking! You are expecting poems describing leaves turning colors, snowflakes gently falling, and days getting warmer. No, no, no. Nicola Davies has the eyes of a naturalist and the curiosity of a child. Rather than the standard seasonal fare, Davies’ poems describe the silken parachutes of baby spiderlings, the stringy barbs of a feather, and mushrooms popping up and unleashing their spores in the rain.
Outside Your Window is a wonderfully informative introduction to the natural world. Davies is a zooligist by training, and her scientific training is evident. She uses terms like “chrysalis,” “worm casts” and “drakes” accurately. She describes the life cycle of a frog and explains that stars are suns like our own. All of this information is snuck in so unobtrusively that you will not realize how much information you are sharing with children.
Around each of Davies’ poems, Mark Hearld’s illustrations of plants, animals and landscapes spread luxuriously over large-format, two-page spreads. Hearld was influenced by Edward Bawden and other mid-20th Century British artists and illustrators, and Hearld’s illustrations definitely have a mid-20th century feel.
While the style of Hearld’s illustrations harken back to mid-century artists, the compositions of Hearld’s illustrations are new and often unexpected. Hearld’s illustrations have depth and texture. Many combine a landscape with close up images of the plants or animals mentioned in Davies’ poems. For example, in a spread entitled “Gull Flight”, we see three gulls up close, smaller gulls spiraling in flight and a pier and ocean behind them. In a spread entitled “Worms”, the focus is on worms and leaves in the foreground, while in the background we see a dark house and yard in the rain with glowing yellow windows.
Recommended For: Outside Your Window will appeal to kids ages 2 to 8 and up. Outside Your Window is a great book to share with children one-on-one where children can request the poems they want to read. Teachers or librarians can also share Outside Your Window with a group of children by reading one poem a day or by reading the section of poems corresponding with the current season.
If after spending time immersed in Outside Your Window you too have the urge to live within the pages of this book, you can do the next best thing. You can plaster your walls with this gorgeous Mark Hearld wallpaper.
Lastly, in case you are not already smitten, I leave you with a video introduction to Mark Hearld’s work complete with nice Celtic music.