Varmints

( 1 )

Overview

Striking, surreal illustrations and a haunting, evocative text tell a mysterious tale of a threatened natural world —- and a hopeful new start.

Once, the only sounds to be heard were the buzzing of bees in the grass, the murmuring of moles in the earth, and the song of birds in the sky. These warmed the hearts of those who cared to listen —- until the others came to fill the sky with buildings and the air with a cacophony of noise. With dramatically lit artwork and a spare, ...

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Overview

Striking, surreal illustrations and a haunting, evocative text tell a mysterious tale of a threatened natural world —- and a hopeful new start.

Once, the only sounds to be heard were the buzzing of bees in the grass, the murmuring of moles in the earth, and the song of birds in the sky. These warmed the hearts of those who cared to listen —- until the others came to fill the sky with buildings and the air with a cacophony of noise. With dramatically lit artwork and a spare, intriguing text, Varmints tells of a pastoral world in need of protection and of the souls who love it enough to ensure its regeneration. Includes vellum pages and French flaps as part of a gorgeous paperback design.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken and Sylvia Marantz
Once, the peaceful, quiet world was populated by few. Then, "others" arrived, building tall buildings to fill the sky, making "so much NOISE that no one could hear themselves think! So they stopped thinking." Still the small, strange protagonist, one of the early "few," nurtures "a little piece of wilderness" high above the streets. When he feels the time is right, he takes this piece away and sends it aloft, nourishing new hope for the few. The front cover portrait of our "hero," an odd humanoid with rabbit-like ears who stares at us from a brightly lit, well planted somewhere, suggests a happy story. But the back cover and most of the episodes inside are dark, urban, computer-generated (Adobe) images that make the bits of succinct text in sometimes very small print quite difficult to read. Translucent overlay pages separate "Chapters." This is clearly a fantasy with a message of hope triumphing over despair as we watch one bit of light grow and one "fragment of wilderness" tended in the darkness until the time comes for it to be free. The pages demand involvement as we puzzle the meaning. Reviewer: Ken and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 4 Up- This story of ecological doom and resurrection begins with an arresting cover portrait: a small, winsome creature (think part rabbit, part mole) looks straight out at readers from a lacy glade, alert but vulnerable. The book is divided into three sections by opaque pages resembling the opening countdown frames on a film. Brief oblique text relates how the creature's idyll in a sunny, bee-filled meadow is cut short by the arrival of "others" whose construction of towering, shadowy, noise-filled buildings ultimately blots out all light and all sounds. The small creature saves a bit of the natural world in the form of carefully nurtured wilderness plants. When the time is right, he releases the seeds into a pod-world. Once again a sunny, bee-filled meadow flourishes, and nature can begin anew. Filmmaker Craste's surreal digital paintings create three starkly contrasting worlds. The two meadow worlds, with their "whispering wind" and bird songs, are vast, open, and filled with light, both literally and figuratively. The industrial world, with its hopeless masses teeming far below its looming towers, is suffocating in its claustrophobic darkness. Lavender-gray text on blackish pages is difficult to read, perhaps intentionally. This oversize picture book will be most effective as a discussion book for children and adults who can bring environmentally informed interpretations to the abstract, transcendental story.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Here Ward's brief lament for the loss of nature's peace and quiet to rampant urbanization really gets tricked out by elaborate packaging, occasional translucent pages and Craste's hyper-atmospheric digital art. The soft sounds of bees and birds once "touched and warmed the hearts of those FEW who paused and cared to listen," but that was before the OTHERS arrived with immense skyscrapers and so much noise that all thought was driven away. Set over futuristic, dimly lit buildings and the scurrying shadows of residents-who are depicted as rabbit-like creatures with shiny black noses and eyes-the spidery lines of silver text are almost impossible to see. The illustrations also expand on the allusive narrative with a baroque plot in which one last pot of meadow flora somehow causes everyone to stop, hear the bees again and construct giant terrariums that are part seedpod, part flying saucer, as enclosed preserves. Craste is an award-winning creator of animated shorts, and is making a film of this book. Perhaps it'll make more sense on the screen. (Picture book. 7-9, adult)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763637965
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2008
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,014,991
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.75 (w) x 12.25 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Helen Ward, the author and illustrator of more than twenty-five children’s picture books, has been praised equally for her lucid prose and her meticulous illustrations. She lives in Gloucestershire, England.

Marc Craste is a senior animation director at London-based Studio Aka, where he has designed and directed numerous award-winning commercials. He is currently working on a short-film version of this book. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

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