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Volume VIII Number 1 . . . . September 7, 2001
The striking oil paintings by first-time picture book artist Frances Wolfe capture perfectly the tranquil beauty of a home near the sea. Using sparse but poetic text, she imparts a young girl's perspective of the many solitary pleasures of seaside living. From rowing a boat to picking berries to searching for seashells, she delights in the many unstructured activities that nature provides. The excerpt above gives the first verse of the seven-verse acrostic which comprises the text. Each line of the two-line verses has its own double-page painting that renders the evocative words into beautiful images. Because it is so spaced, it may not be immediately apparent that the text forms an acrostic spelling SEASIDE. That Wolfe loves her seaside home is apparent, as she portrays a nostalgic fondness where even dreary, rainy days provide a quiet space in which to read.
Wolfe's eye-catching illustrations with their calm preponderance of blues seem to glow with an inner serenity. Reminiscent of Alex Colville, especially in the painting where the binocular lens mirrors a sea scene directly at the reader, she uses perspective to advantage. With the exception of the full view of a gull flying with wings outspread and a lighthouse at night, she crops the pictures to give immense close-ups. This has the effect of providing a child's perspective but also of hinting at the vastness of the sea and its surroundings. Any child who has ever rambled by the seashore, or even those who have never seen the sea, will appreciate this charming celebration of words and pictures.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF.
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