Catch the Sky, by author Robert Heidbreder and illustrator Emily Dove, is a collection of 30 micro-poems, each under 20 words. They cover everything sky-bound, including natural phenomena like crows and the northern lights as well as human creations like fireworks, helicopters, and paragliders.
Heidbreder’s writing is effortless. His words are natural and fun rolling off the tongue – no small feat, given the restrictive word count. A poem like “Fireflies” demonstrates the collection’s playful, conversational tone: “There – not there – off – on – switching – / luminous yellow, / fireflies’ bewitching.” This is airtight, masterful wordsmithing neatly tucked into a tiny package.
Despite the poems’ brevity, Heidbreder finds space for evocative phrases: a helicopter is “proudly loud,” a hot-air balloon displays a “slow-go show,” and the sun is described in clever metaphors: “Don’t catch its eye! / But hug its power.” The poems also stand up well to the read-aloud clap test; very small children may understandably pass on listening to poetry in static contemplation, but almost every entry in Catch the Sky can be enjoyed while clapping or stomping to the rhythm.
As is becoming a hallmark of Greystone Kids’ picture books, this one is impeccably designed. The poems are all displayed in pairs on double-page spreads and illustrator Dove seamlessly integrates the topic of each pair into one compelling landscape. “Kites” and “Balloons” present a cityscape with two different rooftop parties, and “Squirrel” and “Starlings” depict the animals inhabiting the same striking set of vertical power lines. The pictures also include people with a variety of skin colours and someone using a wheelchair.
In addition to being an artist, Dove is a certified naturalist, something evident in the uncanny way she is able to capture natural light in combined watercolour, ink, and digital art. Her style has the joy and animation-inspired style of Cale Atkinson with some of the gentle reverence and radiance of Elly MacKay. It is the perfect match for Catch the Sky and the invitation inherent in the title.