Thursday, March 19, 2009


ALL IN A DAY by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure (Abrams)
A simple, sweet entreaty to children to make the most of time is delivered in rhyme by this award-winning and prolific author. This poem verges on a spiritual, a la "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" or "Simple Things," but like those songs, the traditional, folksy feel keeps it glowing from sun-up to sundown for all audiences. Some of the ideas, though beautifully communicated, are a little esoteric for its young audience ("The past is sailing off to sea,/the future's fast asleep./A day is all you have to be, it's all you get to keep") but the soothing rhythm of the language compensates for what is hard to comprehend. Most noteworthy are the illustrations, striking black papercuts laid against alternating backgrounds of pastel blue and buttercream yellow, every double-page spread bright as breakfast. Nature, family, play and helping, themes of great interest and identity for primary audiences are all celebrated here, and babies will also enjoy the swing and sway of the words and the bold contrasts in the pictures while nursing or rocking. A perfect pick for springtime, and definitely worthy to tuck in among the marshmallows in the Easter basket. (3 and up)

Also of interest:
Day turns to night in another book using minimum palette for maximum impact, namely, the 2009 Caldecott winner, THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin). Scratchboard technique on black elicits the shadows while yellow-orange objects on the pages reassuringly glow like fireflies on the page. The unfettered text inspired by the traditional nursery rhyme "this is the key of the kingdom" is cumulative and winds down perfectly to a cozy bedtime tuck-in. The style of both pictures and text bring to mind the work of Janina Domańska, who won a Caldecott honor in 1971 for IF ALL THE SEA WERE ONE SEA, and likewise, bears reading again and again and again. A dreamy book as warm in spirit as a cozy house.

On a personal note:
Who would have expected any less, but I have to report that Rosemary Wells certainly rocked the PlanetEsme Bookroom this past week when she came to celebrate her recent release LINCOLN AND HIS BOYS for intermediate readers. She certainly gave no doubt as to why she is considered legendary in the world of children's books, captivating an audience of over fifty people squeezed in on a Monday afternoon as she shared a fiery and wholly contagious enthusiasm and wildly impressive knowledge of her subject. It was most interesting to hear what really different people they were in the Civil War time period, how "Victorian" in attitude they could be, how things like keeping warm and preparing food and going to school, things we take for granted, were not to be taken for granted back then, and how (as Rosemary put it) "encumbered by prejudice" they were as a generation, and for generations; and yet, out of all of these trials and limitations came forth this amazing man. So, so interesting! I think everybody there learned something new, and felt something new, too.

Every party needs some treats, so I served cupcakes using Mary Todd Lincoln's original almond cake recipe (thank you, Sweet Reads) which actually tasted a little funny, kind of like Chinese almond cookies only they were cupcakes...maybe it's because I didn't churn the butter or gather eggs from my own hens, as Mary Todd suggested. I also served up southern corn pudding (to be fair to both sides and bring the union together in honor of our 16th prez), and ham sandwiches, yummy yum if I do say so myself!

Rosemary Wells fielded questions with aplomb and here she is giving some serious consideration to the work of a talented young author.

My photos are somewhat crummy, pardon me, maybe someone else who was in attendance can share theirs? The Book Stall was our local bookseller for the event (don't forget to support your local independent!) and everyone came away with one of Rosemary's outstanding titles to peruse; my favorite e-mail I received after the event read, "Jesse and I both had a wonderful time listening to Rosemary Wells yesterday. Jesse has barely put the book down since." Well, you know I wish I could just have EVERYONE in my literary living room, but if you couldn't make it, at least you can still vicariously enjoy the experience by "barely putting the book down," and isn't that really the most lasting part, anyway?

Thanks for visiting the land of Lincoln, Rosemary Wells!

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