Wowza. I continue to be impressed.
The Plan by Alison Paul, illustrated by Barbara Lehman (InfoSoup)
Told in words that shift by one letter from page to page, this picture book is a lesson in imagination from its structure to its subject matter. A little girl makes a plan to take a plane up into space to Saturn. She lives on a farm with her dog who accompanies her everywhere. As they work on the farm, she discovers a key that unlocks her father’s photo album. There she discovers that he and her mother were pilots on The Mighty Comet. So the girl shares her plan with her father. They all work together to restore the airplane, allowing themselves time to grieve for the loss of her mother, and then all take off into the air together.
Paul demonstrates incredible restraint and control in the text of this book. Changing just one letter from page to page could result in a book that is stagnant, but instead this book explores and the story develops in a natural way. The simple text allows readers to fill in the story, to discover the key and what it unlocks, and to participate in the shared adventure. The component of the mother’s death is deftly handled, subtle and quiet.
With such simple text, the illustrations by Lehman really tell the full story. Done in watercolor, gouache and ink, they too share the quiet wonder of the text. They are done in deep colors that shimmer on the page, inviting the reader to look closely and explore.
A brilliant picture book filled with word play that is easy to read and a story with beauty and depth. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (InfoSoup)
Rashad is just minding his own business, getting chips after school, when he is suddenly accused of shoplifting after a white woman trips over him. He ends up being brutally beaten by the police officer in the store and has to be hospitalized. At the same time, Quinn is heading out to a party with his friends from school and witnesses the beating first hand. Quinn considers the officer involved and his younger brother close personal friends and struggles with what he has seen. A video of the incident goes viral and Rashad finds himself at the center of the Black Lives Matter discussion. Both Rashad and Quinn have to figure out whether they are willing to stand up for change and what that means for each of them.
I have heard incredible praise for this book and it is all completely true. Reynolds and Kiely tell their story in alternating chapters, each narrated by one of the two teens. The book is so strong, the voices of each of the narrators are distinct and clear. The book fights stereotypes over and over again. It is done with care and consideration, each choice that is made fights against what our culture believes to be true. It is done though with such certainty too that the reader doesn’t notice that the very structure of the story itself is part of its message.
This is a stunning read. The authors do not duck away from the complexity of the questions being asked, instead adding nuance in some instances. Rashad’s father is a police officer and the story of why he left the force will resonate and show just how insidious societal racism is even in the African-American community itself. The two main characters also face difficult decisions but very different ones. The book is difficult, challenging and vital.
This is a must-read book for teens. It would make a great platform for important discussions that need to continue in America. Brave, incredible and riveting. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from library copy.