Quiet covers the out-of-doors like a blanket on most winter mornings. Some days this silence is broken by the call of chickadees or stiff breezes blowing among the evergreens. Rabbit paths in and out of shelter and chewed shrubbery are a sure sign of their survival. During storms high winds sculpt snow into wavy drifts. As it passes and clouds leave, rings of light surround the moon.
On those days when the sun shines, black shadows paint patterns of bare tree trunks and branches on the cold, white canvas. When we notice these elements, in any season, we also realize the magnitude of the network of life of which we are a part. The Whole Wide World and Me (Candlewick Press, February 19, 2019) written and illustrated by Toni Yuly follows a small girl who realizes her various connections to our natural world.
Like a flower . . .
This flower is not alone. It is growing in a field. Nearby a fish swims in a pond. Above the field and the pond, a single cloud floats in a clear blue sky.
Noticing the flower in the field, the fish in the pond and the cloud in the sky is the curious child. She grows, breathes and moves as they do. As she wanders through the grass to the edge of the water and looks up from a tree branch, she feels a part of her surroundings.
At the seashore a wave washes along the sand. The girl uses her feet to make her own waves. Wherever she goes she replicates the actions of those things she sees.
The world is large. She is little. They are a team.
Six sentences worded perfectly for the intended audience by Toni Yuly allow readers to shadow the explorations of a single child. We feel close to her through her first-person point of view. A gentle rhythm is supplied with rhyming words and alliteration. By using the title as the closing sentence, we are brought full circle.
Vibrant, bold colors on the matching dust jacket and book case immediately draw readers' attention. The green, yellow, red, purple and black on the front coupled with the tiny details of the ladybug and butterfly invite us to join the little girl in the field of flowers. To the left, on the back, four layers of purple form a large frame around a square image of the child splashing in the sea.
The opening and closing endpapers are a pale robin's egg blue. There is an initial title page with blades of grass along the bottom. The ladybug rests on one of the blades. On the formal title page, the grass continues. A blue jay on the left is turned toward the title on the right. Above the bird the butterfly flutters and a delicate blue dragonfly hovers above the grass on the right.
Throughout the entire book, Toni Yuly masterfully uses white space to accentuate the items on each page. She shifts her perspective to coincide with the text. For the first three words we are very close to the single yellow flower. In the field with a larger point-of-view there is more grass and insects. All we see of the girl is her green boots and a part of the bottom of her skirt. For the third set of three words, she moves us close to the object again.
ink, charcoal pencil, torn tissue, cut paper, and digital collage
the illustrations spanning double pages are like individual visuals lining the walls of a gallery. Each one is perfect alone but ties to the one before it and after it presenting a pleasing flow. They radiate the delight of discovery.
One of my many favorite illustrations is of the child sitting on a tree branch. The trunk of the tree rises on the left side with a tiny "v" at the top. One of two blue jays is perched there. The girl's back is to us as she watches the cloud. On the back of her purple top is a lavender daisy. At the end of the branch on the far right another blue jay is resting. The butterfly is moving on the right side under the branch. This is an ode to all the girls and guys who've climbed a tree and watched clouds pass by in the brilliant blue sky.
Our natural world is a beautiful place. The earlier and more often we feel a part of it, the more we will protect and preserve it. This is the value of The Whole Wide World and Me written and illustrated by Toni Yuly. You can sense happiness with every page turn. I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Toni Yuly and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Toni Yuly has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At Candlewick Press and at Penguin Random House, you can view interior images. There is an older but wonderful interview at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast with Toni Yuly. Enjoy the video where Toni Yuly talks about her creative process.