Defining home depends on the individual. For some it's a permanent structure in the same place year after year. A more temporary residence with a changing location is home to others. Home may not even refer to a physical object.
Home may not be something you can see. It might be anywhere as long as you are with a particular being, or where you feel loved. For those in the animal world home can be these things along with other attributes. The Road Home (Abrams Books For Young Readers, March 7, 2017) written by Katie Cotton with illustrations by Sarah Jacoby presents a breathtaking lyrical and visual representation of home through four animals.
Fly with me to far away,
where sun sill warms the ground.
An adult bird beckons to a baby, asking it to take flight. The seasons are shifting and they need to do the same. Winter can be harsh.
A tiny mouse, though its paws are sore, is encouraged to keep working. A nest must be made from straw and leaves offering them protection. To be hidden is to be safe.
Wolves race for food, hunger gnawing at their stomachs. The younger of the two is learning to hunt. To take a life is to save their own lives.
Two rabbits, hearts pounding, run for shelter through brambles. The chilling fingers of cold mingle in their fur. They are pushed by the panic filling their bodies. Their den offers sanctuary.
Each of these animals is moving during the day with different intentions but what they seek is the same...home. Home is survival, the opportunity to live another day. Do you think they see the world as a whole as home?
Though the narrative describes difficult living conditions it does so with grace and distinction through the words written by Katie Cotton. For the bird, the mouse, the wolf and the rabbit at least four sentences, two of them rhyming, depict survival essentials. Warmth, safety and food are driving forces in their lives. To have the same sentence at the close of each description ties all the animals together. When Cotton alters it at the end, a truth is revealed. Here are three more sentences.
Come with me through tangled trees
and thorns that grasp our coats.
The air is cold and sharp as ice.
It chills our trembling throats.
Rendered with watercolors and digital media the illustrations by Sarah Jacoby create an atmosphere complementing and heightening the text. The intricate lines and exquisite details as well as the altered perspectives seen on the book case are continued throughout the book. To the left of the adult and baby mouse, on the back, is a panoramic view of snow-capped mountains in the background with forest trees and rolling hills in the foreground. Framing this along the bottom is the last of the flower blooms of the season. The title text is embossed copper foil.
The opening and closing endpapers reflect in a wash a season or perhaps a time of day. The first is in hues of blue and the second is in warm golden yellow and orange. Beneath the text on the title page the two mice are shown in miniature.
Most of the images span two pages with the exception of several grouped together on one page with a single page picture opposite them. Those smaller illustrations, three, in a group definitely ask us to slow our reading. This allows us to feel the full emotional impact.
One of my favorite pictures of many is at night. Snow covers the ground as a full moon glimmers through the tree branches on the right. Beneath it are rows of evergreens behind a large open field. A path cuts through the white. On the left we can see inside a hill where the adult rabbit and baby rabbit are curled in sleep, safe for the night.
The majesty of animal life is conveyed beautifully in The Road Home written by Katie Cotton with illustrations by Sarah Jacoby. The eloquence of the words and luminous illustrations fashion a volume which reads almost like a lullaby. You will want a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.
To learn more about Sarah Jacoby and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. You can view interior images at the publisher's website.