THE DEER WATCH
CANDLEWICK, APRIL 9, 2013
Illustrated by DAVID SLONIM
Feel the anticipation — and share the moment of discovery — as a young boy and his dad set out to find one of nature’s unforgettable wonders.
A father promises his young son that this summer they will see a deer. They set out over the dunes, through the marsh, and into the woods, searching for a white-flag tail or a set of leaping legs. But deer are hard to find, especially if your feet want to dance and your nose tickles until you sneeze. Squirrels scurry up trees, rabbits leap out of sight, and a pheasant flushes into the sky, but the deer remain hidden until the boy is almost ready to give up and head home. A captivating, lyrical narrative and oil-on-linen landscape illustrations create a sense of quiet suspense as a young boy experiences a sight he will hold in his memory forever.
Writing in evocative prose poetry, Collins (Come Out, Come Out!) tells the story of a boy and his father who arise with the sun one morning to try to glimpse the local deer. They are staying
with the boy’s mother at a summer house on the shore “that smelled like old trees/ and where/ the seagulls on the roof/ believed they owned the place.” As they walk, they discover an egret (a “tall white shaggy bird,/ its neck a question mark”) and, less auspiciously, workmen disrupting the morning quiet with their bulldozers. A gentle sense of suspense slowly builds, leading to the magical instant when a doe and two fawns materialize. Slonim (I Loathe You), painting thickly in oils, does a lovely job of visualizing the wet stillness of a silent morning near the shore, as well as the intimacy between the terse father and his enthusiastic son. A nostalgic sensibility runs throughout Collins’s writing, the story unfolding from the poetic adult perspective of one sharing a treasured memory. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Lauren Abramo, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Apr.) –Reviewed on: 02/25/2013 Publisher’s Weekly
Early one morning, a young boy and his father climb the dunes by their house and walk into a wooded conservation area to look for deer. Stopping from time to time, waiting and watching (the father patiently, the boy finding it difficult to stay still), they spy an egret wading in water, a pheasant rising into the air, and finally, finally, a doe and two fawns. Later, the boy reflects that he will always remember “the way those deer had suddenly appeared, / the way they’d quickly run away – / as if they’d come from nowhere . . .” Poetic in a plain-spoken, colloquial way, the text is written from the boy’s point of view as he recalls the experience. The impressionistic illustrations show up well from a distance, transporting viewers to the beautifully composed waterside and woodland scenes created with impressionistic plays of light on rocks, water, sky, trees, people, and deer. Close up, the thick, short brushstrokes and individual dabs of color will tempt children to reach out and feel their varied textures on the page. Like Yolen and Schoenherr’s Caldecott-winning Owl Moon (1987), this quiet picture book records a child’s experience of nature with precision, beauty, and understated power. — Carolyn Phelan Booklist
A slow start to the story and the odd line breaks won’t keep readers from being mesmerized.
It’s another summer at the beach house, and a boy’s father has promised that he will at last see a deer. The two head out early, searching the dunes and the marsh grass, finding traces of wildlife but no deer. A working bulldozer keeps deer away from the road, but the conservation land holds promise. The narrator knows he must keep still and quiet, but it is a mighty battle against his body, which has the wiggles. In the end, their patience is rewarded by a vision so awesome that the boy has trouble putting it into words—“the memory would never leave— / … / our two worlds crossed / for just a magic while.” In an odd mix of childlike voice and adult sensibility that nonetheless entrances, lyrical sentences capture the scenery in words: “…There / was a pond, a shiny mirror / full of trees all upside down / and water lilies right side up.” Slonim’s textured oil paintings, with visible brush strokes, evoke childhood, nature and the tender relationship between a father and son, adding to the scenes described in the text instead of mirroring them.
While each individual part may not be spectacular, the sum has a quiet majesty and beauty that begs to be shared one on one. (Picture book. 3-7) –Kirkus