A collection of some of John Muir’s most memorable and inspirational words reminds us of a shared responsibility and inescapable bond—that all inhabitants of this planet “travel the Milky Way together.”
Selections from the naturalist’s writings are paired with illustrations by Italian illustrator Manna. Muir is introduced to readers in a one-page introduction as a “Scottish-born naturalist, activist, and writer” who traveled across the United States and fell in love with the woods of the West Coast. His writings on nature, his founding of the Sierra Club in 1892, and his help establishing national parks under President Theodore Roosevelt made him important in the modern environmental movement. The selections of his writings are culled from a handful of his many published letters, articles, and books as well as field journals published after his death. Each spread showcases a few lines of text with single or double-page illustrations that loosely visualize the text. Some are realistic scenes of Muir as an old man gazing at mountains or collecting plants; others present somewhat fantastical images, such as plants growing out of his hands. Muir’s words invite readers to walk, to camp, to climb mountains, to feel the sunshine and wind within; to wander, to rest, to observe, and to join nature’s creatures. He describes the world and humans’ place in it with inspired, loving words and phrases. Manna’s masterful illustrations bring wild places and beings to life on the page using a simple palette of brown, green, and blue to blend Muir right into his natural surroundings. A sweet sip from a deep well.
As likely to charm grown-up John Muir acolytes as it is to win new, little ones, this is a dreamy compilation of nature-exultant quotes from the celebrated writer and Sierra Club cofounder. Each quote is illustrated with fantastical sketches that render Muir larger than life, alive in the landscapes that he lauded: trees sprout from his hands and stars dance at his feet as he awes that “we all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men.”
–Michelle Anne Schingler and Danielle Ballantyne, Foreword Reviews, 02/01/2021
John Muir was a pioneering environmentalist in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and his love for exploration and communing with nature is here captured by Manaresi, who—after introducing the historical figure—selects poetic quotes from Muir’s prolific writings. The words, with the noticeably elevated diction of the day, convey a deep sense of serenity and oneness with the environment, including the terrain, plants, and animals. Italian illustrator Manna sets each line—at first—to idyllic images of nature untouched by humans, save for the presence of the lanky, long-bearded Muir. As the pages turn, the art takes on some surrealist notes, with plants blooming from the old man’s fingertips, a mountain range rising from his tabletop, the Milky Way enveloping him as he looks into a reflective pool. It’s a quiet, contemplative work, and while its pace and language may have trouble reaching a modern picture-book audience, it succeeds beautifully in honoring Muir’s legacy and striking an inspirational tone.
–Ronny Khuri, Booklist, 03/01/2021