Taking a step outside, it is impossible to overlook the seasonal shift that is upon us. Leaves have turned to crimson and gold, harvest time has come and gone, and apples are the foodstuff of the moment. The newest offering from paper artist Nikki McClure, Apple (2012, Abrams), celebrates this all-American fruit and uses it to illustrate the larger rhythm and cycle of the seasons and of life; from harvest to compost heap to the rebirth of spring.
This is actually a reprint of a limited edition book that McClure handmade and sold locally in 1996 and, in fact, showcases the very first paper cut work that she ever created. This reissue is, in and of itself, a work of art. Between its embossed covers are crisp illustrations printed on heavy pages. With a single word accompanying each image, this is the simple, honest beauty that we’ve come to expect from McClure. It’s amazing, actually, to see the evolution of this artist as demonstrated through her work. These very first renderings of hers are spare and look as if they could be woodcuts, compared to her more recent pieces whose intricate detail invite close study and challenge our notions of what one can do with a single sheet of paper. This simplicity is perfectly suited to the subject matter. What could be more sincere than following the humble apple on its life’s journey?
The story is told through the point of view of a child, making it especially easy for young ones to relate. A little girl sneaks one of the apples her father has gleaned, brings it to share with her friends, and then forgets it on the playground. After it has been returned to the earth via the compost heap and the long winter has passed, she is blessed with the appearance of a small seedling. The high contrast pictures appeal to even the youngest readers and the open-ended story creates many points of entry for discussion with older children as well. Our collection of seasonal books is better for the inclusion of this little gem and we look forward to returning to it for many years to come.