A lovely new picture book, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING is written by Arthur A. Levine and illustrated by Katie Kath.The stated target age for this new release is 5-8, but it's a perfect example of a book that will burrow into the hearts of people of any and every age.
|Running Press Kids, August 9, 2016|
The story is both universal and intimate, emerging first from the charming personalities and relationships among the grandparents and the child, Noah. Within just a few pages the words and images of their exuberant summer routines begin to blur in ways that confuse and worry Noah.
Both text and illustrations convey a gradual and uncomfortable "fading away" of Grandpa without heavy-handed explanations, labels, or discussions of Alzheimer's or dementia. Neither the text nor illustrations resort to hand-wringing or overwrought expressions, and yet they are heartfelt and recognizable, as in this excerpt:
"Grandma came outside after him (Noah) and kneeled down so she could look in his eyes. She touched Noah's cheek, sighed, and said, "Grandpa knows you. He just gets confused, that's all. So we have to appreciate what he still has, not what he's lost."
Wise words, but the facing spread reveals and validates Noah's authentic emotional response:
"Noah thought that was like trying to feel good about the toys you still had, when your favorite one got left behind at the beach."
In all cases illustrator Kath maintains a subtle touch with color, expression, gesture, and details to suggest and shift moods. I am always in awe of those who can convey potent emotional content with the tiniest shifts of dotted-eyes and tilting brows. Kath's illustrations display her mastery of that skill.
Noah finds his attempts to deal with his "fading" grandpa to be unsatisfying. Trying to sustain their shared routines on his own causes him to feel his loneliness more intensely. Grandma does her best to fill his days with engaging experiences, but it's Noah's attempt to maintain routines that provides the key to unlocking Grandpa's memories and personality, despite continuing changes.
Levine's subtlety with text is as impressive as Kath's deft illustrations.
In the early pages:
"... singing as long as the walk would last."
After finding a way back into each others lives, Grandpa and Noah are able to head out together for a walk:
" And they took off down the road together, planning to go for as long as the song would last."
The end papers open with the full colors of Grandpa's plaid shirt, which fades in and out throughout the story. It is particularly telling that when the gray recedes the plaid is restored but with some original tones missing. The closing endpapers eliminate those fading strands while sustaining joyful colors. Likewise, the title page and early stages include birds singing robustly, transferring to subdued during interior struggles, but resuming their joyful trills on the final pages.
These are only a few of the ways this book could serve as mentor text for writers, young and old, and for illustrators as well.
The Kirkus review offers a full summary of the story here.
The book as a whole stands up to multiple rereadings, in no small part because of the upbeat conclusion and constructive resolution.
I read, write, review, and teach picture books. I attend workshops and conferences, participate in contest panels, and read about picture books. It's easy to imagine that picture books touch my heart and mind on many levels.
Picture books are the precursors to social media. In very very words and images they offer complete, concise, compelling content ranging from belly laughs to wry irony to wrenching social commentary to memorable storytelling to potent delivery of factual content. This little blog provides a platform to send my thoughts out into the blogosphere about particular titles, authors, illustrators, and topics. I launched the site several years ago at a time when a claim about the "death" of picture books was being debated and I had an opinion to share on the subject. I was (and continue to be) eager to explore titles recent and classic and their potential POWER in our lives.
I use the word OUR intentionally. While the stated audience for picture books is young readers, the best picture books are equally valuable and appealing to all readers.
This one surely is, and should be a part of every home. library, and classroom.
To see if others agree, visit stops on the blog tour for WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, linked here:
What A Beautiful Morning Blog Tour
8/2 Flowering Minds
8/5 Stacking Books
8/10 Two Writing Teachers
8/12 Geo Librarian8/13 Randomly Reading
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but the post expresses my honest opinion.