By Patricia Minichiello
@vtpresspass

A new children’s book highlights a collaboration between a bestselling author and an esteemed Vermont artist.

Julia Alvarez and Sabra Field will present their picture book, “Where Do They Go?” from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Edgewater Gallery on the Green in Middlebury.

The book is written in verse and asks the question, what happens when a person dies?

“When somebody dies, where do they go? Who can I ask? Does anyone know?”

Field — the book’s illustrator — said it is a secular take on the problems that all of us face, no matter what our religion.

“Julia found wonderful metaphors for what is often relegated to being a religious experience,” she said.

In addition, Field illustrated a metaphor for the trauma of losing someone, showing how they can be gone forever, on the first page of the book.

“A little girl’s helium balloon escapes out of her hand,” Field said. “I think it’s a wonderful metaphor for irreconcilable grief, if you will.”

During the event Saturday, Alvarez and Field will discuss the book’s creation, take questions from the audience and sign copies.

To create the book, Field said she did preliminary drawings and then made 17 wood block prints, which is an ancient art form that is a technique for printing text or images.

When asked how long the project took her, she replied, a lifetime because she’s constantly working at her craft.

Field is considered a very famous Vermont artist and one of America’s most accomplished printmakers. After the discussion Saturday, a gallery opening reception will begin at 4:30 p.m. and feature a group show including her work.

Award-winning author Alvarez, who was presented with the presidential medal for the arts by President Barack Obama last year, has also written the books, “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.”

Jenny Lyons of Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, who helped organize the event, said she thinks the new book, “Where Do They Go?” will be an instant classic.

“Parents often come into the bookstore looking for a book about the loss of a loved one. This book helps them express some of those feelings and put words to some of those feelings.”

“Can I catch them as a snowflake on the tip of my tongue? Are they that quiet feeling at the end of a song?” Alvarez writes.

Lyons also said the illustrations are stunning and complement the poetry well.

On one page there’s a white angel reaching down from a star-filled sky, as she flies over a tiny home, set on what looks like a Vermont winter landscape.

“Do they grow wings when they die and fly far away? Or hover above me when I need them to stay?”

Patricia Minichiello is a freelance reporter and editor of vtpresspass.com. You can reach her at vtpresspass@gmail.com.