Page 45 Review by Stephen
"When the moon rose high and the stars twinkled, it was bedtime for baby animals. But that night, when the skies turned dark and the night grew stormy, the little ones couldn't sleep."
Well, they can't sometimes, can they, with gales howling outside or torrential rain hammering on the roof or tree tops? Not without some soothing reassurance.
This offers up all the reassurance and love in the world.
"Mama Elephant was passing by. "Hush," she whispered, gently rocking the baby animals in her trunk. "You're safe with me.""
YOU'RE SAFE WITH ME is a Young Readers picture-book so eye-poppingly opulent that I suspect it will be swept up in equal numbers by adults for adults.
It's a perfect twin to Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry's YOU'RE SNUG WITH ME, created with the same emphasis on maternal solace when responding to fearful youngsters' questions about the more frightening aspects of their environment. It boasts equally striking patterns and shapes within shapes, but a much warmer, darker and earthier colour palette perfect for Indian climes.
Here the patterns are perhaps more like those you might find on painted clay, stone, or even an elephant adorned for religious festivals. There's one such within!
Tiny dots in white, cream and rich red are arranged in organic circles, joined by their radial counterparts to fashion whole floral blooms which you'll find forming the thighs of the tiny loris or tiger cub.
Foliage abounds! There the dots are configured so as to demark the curved margins and midribs of leaves, while they are thrown out far straighter in tubular veins for extra support.
Wide-eyed whiskered fish with coppery scales float in the river below, its midnight blue surface punctured by monsoon-large raindrops whose ripples echo not out in concentric circles but in spirals instead to denote outward movement, emphasised by triangular teeth in between.
The sky lit up.
The night flickered.
The little animals gasped."
Like indigenous masks, the warm-blooded youngsters gaze out of their protective, comparatively cool-coloured undergrowth in awe and wonder and fear. The next double-page spread of the sky splinters in a jagged cacophony of lightning strikes, scattering Mama Elephant's explanation into a staccato of barely heard words.
Rarely have I seen such clever interaction in a Picture Book of sight, sound, cause and empathic effect!
I'll also address one more element of that which impressed me the most: sometimes specific fears need allaying as well...
The trees moved.
The wind moaned.
The little animals woke up and whimpered."
Here they are responded to not just with a temporary, placatory cure-all balm...
"Don't worry about the wind," whispered Mama Elephant. "He's an old friend of the forest. He brings us seeds from faraway lands."
But they are answered instead with a flip-side focussing firmly on the future, the wider balance of nature when understood, and the overwhelmingly positive compensation to any temporary tremors of the head or heart.
We'd all do well to listen to that wisdom, instead of attempting to "best" nature by barricading ourselves up against it and so destroying our oldest friend.