by Paula Fox, Karla Kuskin Bell

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A charming picture book from two celebrated masters of children's literature. This lyric poem by one of the most revered children's writers captures those faint glimpses of things that you see but don't quite recognize; sounds you can almost hear; smells, tastes, and feelings that you can't quite name. Each line of the poem and each picture in the book depict the


A charming picture book from two celebrated masters of children's literature. This lyric poem by one of the most revered children's writers captures those faint glimpses of things that you see but don't quite recognize; sounds you can almost hear; smells, tastes, and feelings that you can't quite name. Each line of the poem and each picture in the book depict the sensual essence of a child's day, each of which is totally typical yet thoroughly unique.

Editorial Reviews

Becca Zerkin
Traces is a kind of poem about the clues left behind by a world in motion—a turtle's footprints in the sand, a frog's air bubbles, a jet's smoky trail. Fox's words have a gentle repeating rhythm, as light-footed as the animal that has just left one scene…Kuskin's mixed-media illustrations fill each scene with subdued earthy greens and browns, cool blues and an unusual bronzy sun…Traces isn't the usual bedtime tale made up of catchy rhymes, silly situations or lessons learned. But what it lacks in flashiness it more than makes up for with untroubled sweetness and elegance.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Reviewed by Jon J Muth

The day before Traces arrived on my doorstep, I saw a red fox dash across a field into the woods near my house. I wondered if it had some means of moving through the snow without leaving prints, because I couldn't find any tracks.

We do not move through the world without leaving a wake. This is both a joy and a sobering reminder of our situation. It is also the subject of Fox and Kuskin's delicate, graceful, new picture book.

Fox, the author of many excellent books, often for young readers, gives the book an energetic and distilled poetry. The opening and recurring line,"Something, someone was just here," creates the rhythm and the words, and pictures interlace to address the mystery that holds our interest-who is it? She is such a fine writer that it's a real delight when she steps fully into the wonder of children's thinking and asks, do shadows sometimes stay, after we leave?

Children draw with an earnestness that is impossible to counterfeit. Its beauty cannot usually be coaxed out by an adult hand. The charming medallion sun, torn-paper clouds and watercolor ribbon of the horizon found on these spreads all feel like the naïve and studious work of a dedicated seven-year-old. Their matter-of-factness is disarming. By choosing to make the pictures this way, Kuskin, a poet who both writes and illustrates, is literally revealing the traces her hand leaves behind. This choice fits the premise of the book beautifully.

The illustrations are almost all double-page spreads, which work well in creating an environment to discover the passage of each creature who travels through it. The pictures are much fun and fit thestory perfectly.

Near the end, in collage artwork describing "something" that leaves its traces in "scraps of paper waving," we see a piece of newspaper headline with reference to the tragedy at the Beslan School in North Ossetia, Russia, in 2004. Another refers to Iraq, and another mentions Israel, the U.S. and the Palestinians. The wonder and sense of isolated discovery in the rest of the book-crinkly paper flowers, dinosaur feet leaving tracks, children's shadows without their young casters-are left behind, and we are bounced out of the fictional dream.

The reason the red fox I saw left no prints is that the fox and its tracks were one and the same. When the fox left, its tracks went with it. All traces left with its intentions. Humans aren't like this. Our traces resonate for a very long time.

I now want to read the book these two extraordinarily talented artists will create when they speak directly to the issue they've raised. Ages 7-9. (Apr.)

Jon J Muth, who received a Caldecott Honor for Zen Shorts, is most recently the author/illustrator of Zen Ties (Scholastic, Feb.).

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Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The poetic text encourages readers to look more closely at their surroundings. As the title implies, sometimes it is just a trace that leads to a wonderful discovery. Bubbles in a pond—what could have left these telltale signs? Turning the page reveals a big bullfrog, which we now know has left its trace in the pond. Each spread takes a similar approach. The picture and the text offer clues. The reader can either make a guess before tuning the page or get an immediate answer by looking at the next spread. The illustrations are fanciful with clearly recognizable components. Trees are sometimes simple triangles or big green blobs on brown trunks. The sun radiates a golden shower. Young children will easily recognize items, and older readers and adults can enjoy the very sophisticated simplicity of Kuskin's illustrations. A delightful book for poetry month—or any time of the year. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4- "Something, someone was just here./Now there's barely a trace of it...." Again and again, readers catch glimpses of elusive animals, long-gone dinosaurs, children about to be called inside for dinner, and the invisible wind "that/can only be seen/in/its/traces." The mood of quiet exploration is supported by Kuskin's mixed-media collage scenes that take readers from a pond to a woods to a beach to a garden. Meditative children will find the idea intriguing, while action lovers may become bored by a pattern that repeats without building. The colorful spreads are delicately attractive, but the creature in question is often difficult to see, especially the turtle on the beach that gets somewhat lost in the book's gutter. Pitch this title to your more contemplative readers and poetry lovers.-Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Kirkus Reviews
What leaves bubbles of water and air on a lily pond? What leaves a path across the sand to the sea? What leaves shadows on the ground? The "wattled" and "warty" bullfrog creates bubbles on the lily pond. The turtle drags its way across the sand to the sea. Children playing follow the leader cast shadows on the ground. These questions and more are raised and answered in this quiet exploration of the traces different creatures and things leave as they pass on their way. The fox leaves its trace in a wooded glade. The snake leaves its trace in the tall wild grass. A jet airplane leaves its own trace across the sky. Even prehistoric dinosaurs and the wind leave unique marks on nature. Kuskin's watercolor-and-collage illustrations brilliantly follow bubbles, tails, footprints and shadows across double-page spreads tracking clues left by the not-quite invisible passage of someone or something. A fascinating look at an overlooked part of nature. (Picture book. 6-8)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
7 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Paula Fox was born in New York City. She began writing books for children in the 1960s and by 1978 her contribution to children's literature was such that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) awarded her the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, a biennial award for an author's entire body of work. Two of her most famous books for children are The Slave Dancer (a Newbery Medal Winner) and One-Eyed Cat (a Newbery Honor Book). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Karla Kuskin studied graphic design at Yale University, where she created her first children's book, Roar and More, which is still in print. Since then, she has written and illustrated over fifty books, among them The Philharmonic Gets Dressed; Dogs and Dragons, Trees and Dreams; City Dogs; and Moon, Have You Met My Mother? She won the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Poetry for Children and was the first recipient of Bank Street College of Education's lifetime achievement award. She lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Brief Biography

Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
April 22, 1923
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Attended Columbia University

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