I love Charley Harper‘s (1922-2007) artwork, and Zoe Burke has added text to create these beautiful little books.
I recently reviewed the first one for the Portland Book Review, Charley Harper’s What’s in the Woods? A Nature Discovery Book. It has not been posted online yet, so I’ll share it here (UPDATE: it’s been posted):
Since the death of artist Charley Harper in 2007, there has been renewed interest in his modernist paintings of birds and other wildlife. Fans of his artwork have enjoyed the vibrant colors, playful settings, and simple yet characteristic representations of the animal world through books, calendars, notecards, prints, and posters. Now, Pomegranate Books has begun a new series of small books aimed at children that will create new fans of Harper’s paintings. What’s in the Woods? A Nature Discovery Book combines animals and plants extracted from Harper’s Birducopia with playful rhyming text from children’s author Zoe Burke. The reader is treated to more than twenty forest animals that are described by Burke through their appearance, how they sound, how some of them smell, and how they move. The beginning text urges the reader to “come along and walk with me” for “there will be so much to see.” A “little Warbler sings” while an owl’s “eyes are round as rings” and on a rock “a salamander crawls” while a snake is “slithering by the falls.” Text and image beautifully merge in What’s in the Woods? and will serve to excite young readers about the natural world.
The publisher – Pomegranate, based here in Portland – sent me a copy of the second book in the series, Charley Harper’s What’s in the Rain Forest? A Nature Discovery Book, which also includes text from Burke.
While we remain in a forest, this time around we’re thousands of miles away, in a forest preserve in Costa Rica. “Take my hand – together we’ll explore.” Again a wide variety of animals call a forest home, and here we come across exotic species of birds – “lots of birds and beasts we’ve never seen before!” And a few familiar ones. Thirty animals in all, birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects, all doing the same sorts of things that North American animals do: eating, looking beautiful, singing, flying, smelling, and, in the case of one fuzzy, slow-moving critter, handing upside down.
Just like What’s in the Woods?, What’s in the Rain Forest?? includes at the end the full Harper painting (Monteverde, 1999) from which the individual animals are extracted, and an identification key to all the species represented.
If you’re in Portland, Zoe Burke will be at Powell’s downtown on September 21 at 11am to read from What’s in the Rain Forest? Harper did a lot of paintings, so it will be exciting to see which painting is used next and to where in the world we’ll be taken to learn all about its animals.