Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Grin, A Worldwide Win

It's an indisputable fact the older we get, the more wrinkles we have.  Many of mine can be attributed to too much sun. Others around my eyes and mouth I wear with a sense of peace.  Those are my smile wrinkles.  Wherever I go, I carry this gift with me, a smile, knowing it's worth giving.

I have another gift... for myself.  I call it The Smile poem.  You know the one I mean.  It's one of those poems you can keep in your pocket.  Here are the first three and the final two sentences:

A smile costs nothing but gives much.  
It enriches those who receive it, without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever....
Some people are too tired to give you a smile.
Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile as much as he who has no more to give.

That is the simple beauty of a smile.  You have no concept of its impact on those who experience your wordless cheer.  In Because Amelia Smiled (Candlewick Press) David Ezra Stein, winner of a Caldecott Honor award for Interrupting Chicken and author/illustrator of Love, Mouserella, has created a book brightly, beautifully portraying his view of the significance of a single unintentional act of kindness, a smile.

Because Amelia smiled, coming down the street...
Mrs. Higgins smiled, too.

Running in the rain with her parents, Amelia's joyful exuberance is contagious.  Her smile ignites an unbroken chain of unanticipated events.  When Mrs. Higgins smiled her grandson came to mind.  She bakes cookies, sending them to him in Mexico.  Sharing them with his students, he decides to teach them a song in English about cookies.

These smiles go from one person to another; a kickboxer, a ballerina, a dancing child, a queen of rumba, a former clown, a high-wire artist and more.  Geographical boundaries are non-existent.  Traveling around the globe, landing in places such as England, Israel, Paris, and a small community in Italy, it creates a teacher, lulls a child to sleep, and rekindles a long ago love.  

The lines between age, gender and culture blur.  Connections strengthen and memories are stirred.  It is with the release of a flock of pigeons Amelia again has cause to smile; her delight has journeyed and returned.

When reading this book, as each page is turned, readers will feel their own smile grow larger and larger.  I know mine did as I felt the stitches of my life become part of a greater whole.  David Ezra Stein's technique of using the word because as a link between people and their actions tightens the story as it circles the globe, bringing it back to Amelia and to the title.  It is in the descriptive, spare, everyday-life narrative that emotions seep from between the lines, encircling readers, binding them to each person in the story.

It's interesting to note Stein brings the last illustration in the book to the front cover slightly shifting characters, enlarging its perspective.  With this we again feel the continuous circle made by Amelia's smile.  The initial title page is a pigeon's eye view of a segment of New York City.  Zooming in for the second title page and verso the intricate detail prevalent throughout the book becomes abundantly clear.  

The many shades and hues of color happily shout, "To life!"  Many of the two page spreads bleed to the edge with the text tucked in the picture.  Other times these spreads will have a white border on the bottom providing a frame, background, for the story lines.  When a single page is placed on the right, the left features two smaller spot visuals surrounded by white.

For the illustrations in this title David Ezra Stein developed a unique skill using pencil, water soluble crayon, and watercolor.  The effect is magical, marvelous.  I want to frame the close-up of Amelia and her parents running in the rain and Gregor buying flowers for Phyllis. (This illustration with the text is dear, heartwarming, and absolutely charming.)

Because Amelia Smiled written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is like your favorite memory.  You never want to let it go but you want everyone to know.  It's pure bliss.

These are the videos with David Ezra Stein explaining his illustrative technique for this title.  It's in a word, amazing.

Head over to John Schumacher's blog at Watch. Connect. Read. to view the book trailer and to enter his giveaway for a copy of this book.  

I have embedded the link to David Ezra Stein's website in his name above.  Here is a link to Inspiration Kits with Because Amelia Smiled.  The link for David Ezra Stein discusses the story behind the story of Because Amelia Smiled is here.

Here is a link for World Smile Day held the first Friday in October each year.

It's going to rain here again today.  I think I'll going running in it, arms outstretched, smiling.  You never know what will happen.

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