“Over in the meadow in the sand in the sun,/Lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one.” So begins this traditional 19th-century counting rhyme, which introduces young children to 10 animal babies and their mothers over the course of a day. Jan Thornhill, who has won several international book awards for her richly illustrated picture books, has revived the rhyme in her latest book, adding an innovative visual twist.
In Thornhill’s version, common household items, such as rubber bands, cotton balls, socks, pretzels, leaves, and broccoli, were photographed and layered into highly textured computer-generated images. In one spread, baby owls – created from fuzzy slippers, toy wheels, carrots, and photos of eyes cut from magazines – next in a tree made of pecans and rubber bands. The mother owl – made of yellow and brown leaves, carrots, toy wheels, garlic cloves, and magazine eyes – hovers nearby in a forest made of green leaves and grasses. Each spread is packed full of brightly coloured detail and wrapped with a vibrant border. The hand-drawn multi-coloured text is set off in a colourful bubble.
Thornhill’s whimsical collages are bold and contemporary in style, unlike the elegant illustrations of her previous books such as The Rumor. Adults and children alike will be fascinated by the challenge of figuring out what the images are made of. A handy index at the back of the book lists the elements used in their creation. Thornhill’s highly original method of illustration has transformed this old rhyme into a fresh visual feast.
QUILL & QUIRE, a Toronto writer and artist