7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #644: Featuring Julie Flett

h1 June 30th, 2019 by jules


“My mom and I bundle up together under the covers
in our new home in the country far from the sea.”


 

I’m sorry to do this to you, dear Imps, but I’m writing about a book today that won’t be on shelves till September. I try really hard not to do this — to write about books that you can’t get your hands on for a while. But for various reasons I’m sharing it today. It’s Julie Flett’s Birdsong (Greystone Kids), and it’s a beauty. Since I have a chance to share some art with you today, I thought I’d go ahead.

This is the story — divided into seasons that go from one spring to the next — of a girl named Katherena, who moves with her mother from her home in a city by the sea to the country. An elderly woman named Agnes is their only neighbor, and when summer arrives, Katherena visits her. Agnes has heard all about the girl from the girl’s mother. The two become friends, and Katherena visits often. They garden. They make things. They talk about making things. The girl, who is Cree-Métis and loves to draw, shows Agnes her drawings and tells her about the Cree seasons. Agnes shows her what she makes out of clay. Two artists, young and old, sharing their craft.

As the seasons pass, Agnes becomes weaker, and her adult daughter comes to stay with her. Agnes sends Katherena home with snowdrop bulbs to plant next year. “They look like tiny moons,” writes Flett. “They give me more ideas for pictures. My fingers itch in my mittens.” By the next spring, Agnes is even weaker. Katherena gathers all her drawings to take to Agnes for a final farewell. That understated, moving spread is pictured below.

Flett fills this tender story with spare, precise language and vivid details: “Our new home hums with peeps and whistles and ribbits and chirps.” Katherena is an observant child who thoughtfully takes in the details of her world — from the “snowdrops” of her yard (flowers in spring) to the “tiny snowballs” of the snow in winter. The text seamlessly incorporates Cree-Métis words, and the book opens with a brief glossary and pronunciation guide. Flett’s earth-toned illustrations capture the seasons with a spare, minimalist beauty, which you can see in the art here today.

 


“Agnes digs in her garden. I help by gathering extra leaves that’ll get mixed into the soil. The worms love this. It’s getting cold and windy and creaky. Agnes says she’s getting creaky too. ‘Would you like to see what I’m working on, Katherena?’ she asks.
‘I’d like that,’ I say.”


 


“Agnes has grown weaker over the winter. Still, from her bed, we can hear the spring birds singing their songs. And the tickle of the branches against her window.
We listen to the sounds together. The snow drops are peeking out.
I wish Agnes could see them. I have an idea!”


 


“When we’re done, Agnes says it’s like a poem for her heart. Then I sit with Agnes and talk about making things: mucky things and things with string and song and paper and words. And then we sit quietly together, on Agnes’s bed, until it’s time to say goodbye.”


 

BIRDSONG. Text and illustrations copyright © 2019 by Julie Flett. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Greystone Kids, Vancouver/Berkeley.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Sorry to be so brief this weekend, but I’m grading grading grading all weekend for the grad course I’m teaching this summer. Fortunately, the grading involves learning about all the picture books my students are reading this summer. I loooove seeing what it is that they are reading and enjoying. But it’s back to grading for me.

What are YOUR kicks this week?





11 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #644: Featuring Julie Flett”

  1. 1. Feeling gratitude for Seven Imps and the service and encouragement and good humor you offer in abundance!
    2. Setting up an exhibit of my nature drawings on Monday for the month of July at the Wellesley (MA) Public Library. (http://robd-observations.blogspot.com/)
    3. In-laws popping in for the evening. Eldest daughter too. A good reason to clean up the house!
    4. Thumbnails and the actual writing of picture books. Good luck Rob!
    5. …a quiet Fourth of July but also “Go USA Women!”


  2. Oh Jules, thank you for giving us something to look foward to at the end of summer. I understand grading…good luck.
    Rob, hope your exhibit goes well.
    My kicks:
    1. Time with a long time friend.
    2. The Village Bookstore in Bellingham, WA.
    3. Plants for the deck.
    4. Reading on the deck.
    5. Hanging out on the deck.
    6. Marionberries
    7. Summer.
    Happy 4th.


  3. Rob, thank you for the kind #1 kick. And how badly I do I wish I could see this exhibit. Actually, hmm …. I MIGHT be in Carlisle, Mass, in late July and could try to see it, but my schedule will be soooo tight. I doubt the library is open on a Sunday evening, which would be the best time to see it. Shoot. (The trip might get moved to October anyway.) I ramble. … GOOD LUCK with the new book.

    Jone, you’re still doin’ retirement just right! You are my role model for many things — and How to Do Retirement is one of those things. I don’t think I’ve ever had marionberries, but I’m curious now. What are you currently reading?


  4. First, I’m going to have to get myself to the Wellesley Library. And you might be in MA? Sounds like your dance card is full, but if you find yourself in Boston, I’m about 5 minutes from the airport and would love to welcome you to beautiful MA!


  5. Hi, Jules!

    1. Your feature on Julie Flett, who is one of my favorite illustrators. I’m spotlighting her book The Girl and the Wolf — written by Katherena Vermette — in my newsletter next month, and now I wish I’d known to ask about the character named Katherena in Julie’s next book.
    2. The bounty of great new music released in the first half of the year. I’ve been paying closer attention than usual, and it’s been so rewarding.
    3. The 10th anniversary, tomorrow, of the publication of my first book, The Day-Glo Brothers.
    4. My Favorite Author in the Whole Wide World, Jennifer Ziegler, who has just joined the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
    5. The Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference this past week.
    6. The excitement of awaiting the results of the DNA tests of my dog, Ernie. I’m so eager to find out what he’s made of.
    7. Robert Caro’s LBJ biography, to which I’ve arrived late (considering that the first volume was published 37 years ago), but not too late (considering that the final volume isn’t done yet, meaning I might be caught up by then).


  6. What a lovely story – the illustrations echo the mood so so well, and that last spread, plus the line about Agnes saying “it’s like a poem for her heart.” Beautiful.

    Jules – good luck grading!!

    Rob – hooray for your upcoming exhibit, and heck yeah, go USWNT!!

    Jone – Bellingham and marionberries and hanging out on your deck in this gorgeous weather we’ve been having all sounds like a perfect week.

    Chris – congrats on the 10th anniversary of your book! My Daisy is a pibble mixed with velvet hippo, what breeds do you think Ernie is?

    My kicks this week:
    1) Good day at work.
    2) A great day later in the week where I won a dismissal for a very deserving client.
    3) A full-on lightning and thunder storm, we don’t get many of those in the PNW and it was great.
    4) New season of Jessica Jones.
    5) Having a night off and enjoying a rewatch of The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood.
    6) US Women’s National Soccer team v France game. Total nail-biter game. Megan Rapinoe was awesome.
    7) Megan Rapinoe’s GLORIOUS stance to the crowd after coring that first goal.
    7.5) Daisy had rehab this morning, and she is very tired (which I love), and the report is she continues to do great and they love her, and she still waits for treat before walking on the underwater treadmill.
    BONUS: US Women’s team plays England on Tuesday.

    Have a Happy and safe 4th everyone!


  7. Hello, Imps! I hope June treated you well. 🙂

    Hello, Julie! That sounds like a moving story.

    Jules: Good luck with grading!

    Rob: Good luck with your exhibit!

    Jone: Enjoy the deck. 🙂

    Chris: Music means so much.

    Rachel: Hello to Daisy, as always! So, so glad that she has humans, both at home and at the center, to help her and care about her so much. 🙂

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Shows
    2) Smiles
    3) Songs
    4) Safe
    5) Sparkles
    6) Said
    7) Shared


  8. Deborah, I don’t know yet if the trip will be July or October, but if I can, I’d LOVE to see you. (It’s a whirlwind trip, but we can try. I’ll email you.)

    Chris, I will have to look for that other Julie Flett book. Also, I always use The Day-Glo Brothers as an example of something (during the week we discuss informational picture books) in my picture book grad course, so your ears must have been burning a couple weeks ago. Congrats to Jennifer. Lucky students!

    Rachel, I love your second kick. I don’t regularly watch sports, but it’s still very exciting to hear about the women’s soccer team. GO, DAISY.

    LW: We call a cat in our neighborhood “Sparkle Star,” and I think that you are a Sparkle Star, too.

    Have a good week, you all!


  9. Jules: Please tell Sparkle Star that I said hello, and if s/he is affectionate and open to receiving hugs, please give Sparkle Star a big hug from me!


  10. She’s the SWEETEST.


  11. Oh my- SO beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing this now- it’s going in my preorder pile immediately. 💛💛


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