Nikki McClure is a stunning artist and a magical picture book author. In both her story and art, she captures the rare, quiet spaces of childhood that often overlap with nature. Both her illustrations and text bring a refreshing, revitalizing pause to the page, warmly inviting readers to slow down and enjoy the moment. Perhaps this is, in part, because McClure's process of creating illustrations for books is slow, thoughtful and determined. As her bio notes, "her work depicts the virtues of hard labor and patience" along with a "large element of celebration." Starting with a single sheet of paper, McClure sketches an illustration onto it then uses a knife to cut away, excavating her images. Scroll to the bottom for an amazing video that shows her working and talking about her work.
With IN, McClure captures what I count as among some of my most memorable and delicious days as a parent - one of those miraculous times when my pre-school aged child and I spent the day inside, in harmony, coming together or parallel playing side by side, engrossed in our own projects and comfortable and secure in the knowledge that the person you love most is right there with you. IN also takes me back to those awesomely comfy, sturdy stripy Hanna Andersson pajamas that my kids lived in for the first six years of their lives.
The text of IN is poetic and fluid, with a childish cadence, starting with the words, "I only want to say in. In my pajamas. Inside. In. In. In." Reading IN out loud to several classes of kindergardeners, they immediately, powerfully identified with staying in, in pajamas. The narrator goes on to talk about all the "in" things that she/he will do. I have to note here that McClure does something I ADORE in a picture book by not indicating the gender of the protagonist, letting the reader and listener make their own assumptions. Wooden blocks, kitchen utensils and a toy giraffe (McClure does yet another thing I love in a picture book by making sure that the giraffe appears on every page, not always in immediately noticeable locations) surround the narrator, who moves on to putting marmalade in pop overs and reading books on laps and in the bathroom. This has to be my favorite illustration in the whole book - the protagonist on the toilet, a book covering her/his face. It's tastefully done and I defy you to find a child who does not know someone who reads in the bathroom, or who in the bathroom reads her/himself.
The second half of IN finds the narrator outside, in the rain, in puddles, observing a tree-full of owls on a fantastic gatefold spread, before deciding to go back in where it is warm and dry. McClure ends the book with an identifying page for the many owls pictured! I'm pretty sure that IN is the first in a series, and I can't wait to see what comes next!
More books by Nikki McClure:
(originally a song) written by the musician Jeremy Chatelain
To Market, To Market. This AMAZING book features a visit to the Olympia Farmer's Market in Washington, where McClure is based. McClure takes the reader through a visit to various farmers, bakers, artists, taking a look at what it is they do, ending with a big family dinner made from the day's purchases.
Source: Review Copy