Sticks and stones can be used to make homes. Stones and sticks can be used to shape words in dirt or sand. Sticks and stones can be used to channel water. Stones and sticks can be used to bring imagined miniature worlds into reality in fields, woodlands or even backyards. With skill they can supply warmth through fire. They hold, hide, mark, filter, and form. They are indispensable.
Together they are better. Stick and Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 7, 2015) written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld introduces us to a stick and a stone who discover the benefits of not being alone. They fashion a friendship, firm and true.
Two separate beings wander and watch in singular silence, day and night. One is roly-poly like a zero. The other is tall and thin like the number one. There is no pleasure in their play.
One fine day Pinecone comes strolling along. He laughs, and then laughs some more, at a struggling Stone. Stick steps up being brave; sending Pinecone on his way.
Stone is pleasantly surprised. Friends do this is Stick's reply. The two, Stick and Stone, are inseparable until the weather intervenes. It's a hurricane!
Stick gets caught in the wind, whirling out of sight. (Pinecone does too.) Stone seeks Stick but he is nowhere to be found. What's that? What's that sound?
Stone rolls and rockets to the rescue. Friends do this for their branchy best buds. The score soars.
The more you read the words of Beth Ferry the more you understand the sheer genius of her selection. Single words rhyme but convey much emotion; sadness, happiness, fear and humor. Younger readers (and all who remember being younger) can readily identify with the story line. Most of the sentences are three to five words long; succinct but highly successful in telling the tale. The friendship between Stick and Stone feels real and is therefore powerful. Here is a sample passage.
"Vanish!" says Stick.
His word does the trick.
As soon as I looked at the matching dust jacket and book case for this title I knew I was going to like Stick and Stone. Their facial expressions exude happiness and a close camaraderie. The color palette used on the front and back, blues, greens, golden browns, a touch of red and a smidgen of purplish pink (on the jacket flap) is maintained within the body of the book. Tom Lichtenheld adds extra finishing touches repeatedly elevating the charm. Notice Stick balancing on the N in the title.
The opening and closing endpapers are done in a muted rustic orange with shaded black drawings. Each in turn explains the birth of Stick and Stone. On the title page the elusive but present butterfly weaves through the text near two clouds and over a single flower in the grass.
The word placement on the pages, providing the pacing, is perfection. The first six pages are single page images with Stick and Stone as the main element. Their position in the pictures depicts the characters' feelings superbly. Shifting from single page illustrations to double page pictures, Lichtenheld's expertise shines in the way his visuals complement and enhance the text.
One of my favorite illustrations is for the text which reads
Stick, Stone. (left)
A friendship has grown. (right)
This image spans both pages. On the left Stick is holding a bottle of liquid bubbles and the wand. Stone with eyes closed is blowing. The bubbles arc up and loop over to the right page. They support the words which climb to the upper right-hand corner. To me this also signifies the rising affection between Stick and Stone.
Stick and Stone with words by Beth Ferry and illustrations rendered in pencil, watercolor and colored pencil by Tom Lichtenheld is a gentle, rhythmic ode to the strength of shared experiences; to having someone who cares about you as much as you care about them. The text and pictures mirror the relationship of the characters, friends to the end. This is a wonderful read aloud generating laughter, sighs and discussion. It would be fun to think of all the uses for sticks and stones. I wonder how many phrases with sticks and stones can be listed;
Between a rock and a hard place
Out on a limb
Stick in the mud...
To learn more about Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names. Enjoy this Activity Kit provided by the publisher. Beth Ferry was a guest at teacher librarian extraordinaire John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read. Be sure to visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson to read about Tom Lichtenheld's process for creating the art for this title. Both of these interviews make the reading of this title richer. Enjoy the book trailer.