Quote of the Month

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

hurray! hurray!

I've known it was coming for months, ordering it as soon as I heard. Then the starred reviews and insightful, informative interviews followed.  First Publishers Weekly closes their review saying:

The vision of Lydia and her escape is a glorious image of her liberation; it's required reading for any kid with a phone.

A month later Kirkus Reviews begins their opinion with:

Into a family's device-dominated existence, Cordell inserts this tribute to the realms of nature and of imagination

Author/illustrator David Small's review in The New York Times Sunday Review, September 14, 2012, says in his concluding sentence:

While the message was perhaps the main reason for baking, it comes along not as the cake itself, but as the icing.

By now I can hardly wait for the release date having read and reviewed Matthew Cordell's earlier work this year, Another Brother.  On October 30th John Schumacher, teacher librarian and blogger at Watch. Connect Read. talks with Matthew Cordell about this new title. In the course of the seven question interview, Cordell states:

But it is equally as important to use our own minds to create something for the people we love and for ourselves.  Express yourself. Make something. Never stop using your imagination.

The anticipation is building when I read this chat on November 1st between Matthew Cordell and Julie Danielson (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast) at Kirkus Reviews.

During their virtual conversation, Cordell says:

Right away, I knew that the picture book was the perfect platform to tell this story.

I had to be away from my home for most of the day on Friday, November 2nd.  Checking Twitter that afternoon this exchange took place.

Even after reading the reviews and interviews, I found myself unprepared for the impact of reading for the first time hello! hello! (Disney Hyperion Books) written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell.  If someone had been in the room and snapped a picture of my face when I closed the cover, my mouth would have been forming a big "O" as my eyes were alight with wonder.  Ever so slowly I felt this big grin, that would have given the Cheshire Cat a run for his money, slowly spread across my face before I read it all over again.

A young girl finds no satisfaction using any of her electronic gizmos, a handheld video game device, a laptop computer or cellphone.  There's even reruns on television.  Leaving her bedroom she finds her Mom, Dad and brother, Bob, completely engrossed using their own gadgets, barely responding to her greetings of "Hello".

Feeling discouraged and at a loss, she notices a single leaf twirl upward through the slightly open door.  Not stopping to put on shoes, she walks barefoot out the door into the falling leaves.


It's as if she's wakened from a dream and rediscovers the out-of-doors as she encounters a ladybug, flower, and a horse.  This horse is no ordinary horse either....the horse greets her by name,

Hello, Lydia.

As she gallops through the field of flowers on the back of her new-found friend, page after page, they are joined by other creatures from the world, animals who have crossed the barriers of time and habitat.  The exuberance, the glory of this freedom, as they all greet one another with "hello" is spectacular until... technology intrudes.  A conversation, greetings, outdoor treasures exchanged and then...the spark that electronics can extinguish, if not carefully guarded, is fanned into a fiery ride of  the stuff of dreams or a small girl's splendid imagination.

The word hello having more than one meaning, a greeting at meeting, a call for attention or questioning inquiry, is used repeatedly in Matthew Cordell's sparsely worded narrative, effectively bringing in those subtle differences.   Choosing to use a limited amount of other words increases the power of the single word, hello.  From my perspective, Cordell's story is saying it's when we pause, step back and look around in the stillness, that the true beauty right in front of our eyes is noticed.

If you are one of those picture book people who pour over every single detail, noticing the jacket, cover, endpapers, title, publisher information, dedication and all the goodness in between, hello! hello! is a total delight.  The jacket showing Lydia chasing after the leaf, leaving her techno-world behind with the multiple-hello pattern in her wake, is repeated on the cover with a major exception. She is still running but through the field of flowers across a sunny landscape, birds in the distance, in silence.

The beginning and closing endpapers employ the use of opposites, hands, page position and text message; a nod to the storyline.  Five pages of the story pass even before the title page is shown.  The publishing information and dedication page are at the near end.  The placement and pacing of every single item is impeccable.

Matthew Cordell uses a bamboo pen and India ink, a bit of pencil, a Macintosh computer, a large format waterproof inkjet printer, and watercolor on paper creating illustrations that alternately are surrounded by large amounts of white space on single pages to full-color visuals bleeding off two- page spreads.  It is mind-boggling to think he hand-lettered all the text within the story, shifting from a more stylized, digital font inside the family home to the looser flowing hellos in the natural world. Color choices again reflect the disparities between inside and outside; the one nearly in black and white, the other ablaze in soft, warm, varied hues that shout joy and life.

As much as I love, Another Brother, having placed it among my Mock Caldecott selections, hello! hello! has secured a huge spot in my mind and heart as well as my Mock Caldecott.  Matthew Cordell's significant skills as an author and illustrator have never been more apparent than in this labor of love.  Read this with or to people who are important to you, again and again.  I can't help but think this would make a great reader's theater presentation.

Be sure to follow all the embedded links above to read the reviews, interviews and Matthew Cordell's blog posts about this title.


  1. Wow! What a splendid review, Margie! A work of art in itself. I've been hearing so many good things about this book too and loved hearing all your observations and insights.

  2. Thank you, Jama. This gem of Cordell's really struck a chord. I truly can't wait to see his next book.