Thursday, December 8, 2011

9. The Story of Christmas

Text based on the King James Bible
Illustrations by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle, 2011
$17.99, all ages, 32 pages

In this reverent retelling of the nativity story, illustrations look as if they were pulled from the walls of a church.

Using a technique rooted in 16th Century folk art, Pamela Dalton scissor-cuts designs from a single piece of paper, then watercolors in details and mounts the scenes on a black backdrop.

Each design is a fragile tapestry of paper and has a mural-like quality. Ornate and naturalistic, it conveys a feeling of antiquity that works beautifully with the story, retold here from the King James Bible.

In one spread, readers see the angel Gabriel alighting before Mary, an Easter lily being offered in his hand, and later, three shepherds arrive at the manager to see baby Jesus, each of their gowns elaborately cut in repeating patterns.

At times, Dalton frames scenes with trees, their bows weighted by apples as flowers vigorously climb up around their trunks. Other times, carved stone fences, bridges or rolling paths define the background, as birds and butterflies angle here and there, or stars shimmer in the sky.

Each scene feels like a fresco commissioned for the wall (or ceiling) of a chapel, and is painted in delicate, earthy hues that evoke feelings of profound respect and peacefulness.

The most exquisite cuts resemble intricate carvings and look as if they might tear if they were touched.

On one page, baby Jesus is swaddled on an oval bed of wheat, its stalks as fine as feathers. On other pages, angel wings in tan tones look like thin wood filigree that's been cut with a laser.

Once again, the result is astounding: images that suggest the look of aged materials, parchment or plaster or wood, as if the pictures themselves were as old as the story.

Dalton uses this same technique, Scherenschnitte, (pronounced share-n-shnitt) in this year's acclaimed Brother Sun, Sister Moon, by Katherine Paterson, an amazing debut that could win her a Caldecott.

To read my review of that gem, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment