Intricate, water-colored paper cuts make for an old-fashioned delight in Katherine Paterson’s reimagining of Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. I was initially struck by the use of black—an unusual choice in a picture book. The black allows the intricacies of the Scherenschnitte (the name for this type of paper cutting) to pop. Dalton’s technique involves folding one large sheet of paper in half and cutting away to leave the image she desires. The art can remain completely symmetrical (as it does on the first spread) or the image can be opened and cut away further, making the art partly symmetrical, but always balanced. After the paper is cut, she then paints the paper, creating the finished illustrations. Since black is the constant, these watercolors set the tone on each page of the canticle.
It’s hard not to be wowed by the paper cuts—it’s one of those times when the committee will realize that the artistic technique is time consuming and really special. Like colored woodblocks, this technique is actually two techniques (cut paper and water color) and they will have to evaluate both. The word “static” will be batted around—always a concern with this kind of art.
No matter what the committee decides, this is one special book that I will be giving at baptisms and baby showers for many years to come. Will it have a sparkly sticker on it? What do you think?