Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Tribute To The Power Of A Single Book

In the world of children's literature if you don't keep a list of forthcoming books, you will forget what you wanted to read.  In a post on April 28, 2014 teacher librarian Travis Jonker, who blogs at 100 Scope Notes, brought to his readers the 2014 Preview Interview: Flying Eye Books.  In that post I saw several books I knew I wanted to read, but I neglected to list them.  It wasn't until I was at my favorite independent book shop, McLean & Eakin, last week I saw one of those books on display among the shelves.

The colorful book case design immediately gets your attention.  The title, while not asking a question, is intriguing. Who is reading?  What are they reading?  Where are they reading? When are they reading?  Why are they reading this book?   The Best Book in the World (Flying Eye Books, July 29, 2014) by Rilla (Alexander) is irresistible even before you open it up.

Take the first step.
Turn the first page.

With those two sentences on the first two pages, readers are invited to join in the journey being taken by an unnamed girl.  We gladly follow her patterned footsteps out and about her neighborhood to the bus stop.  The entire time her head is bent as she reads an open book.

Like her we can read aloud, read along or read silently the written words.  Never glancing up from the book, she travels with no specific destination in mind.  Or does she?  Perhaps the book is about a trip taken by airplane.  Perhaps the book is about an adventure high in the sky.

Is she wandering in the snowy mountains?  Is she trudging through the sifting desert sands?  Is she floating up and down and up and down watery waves?  Where is she navigating to next?  There are answers to be found with every page turn.

There are bicycles.  There are balloons.  There are wild animals in the deepest, darkest forest.  People, places and moments to remember are multiplying.

The day is coming to close.  The story is almost finished.  But...a story is never really over.  All you have to do is...

With limited text Rilla Alexander guides readers through her story better than any map does when we seek a destination.  She implores us to keep going.  She knows the value in books and in reading them.  Her words encourage us to find the pure elation.  When you read her text aloud (even to yourself), there is an undercurrent of cheerful comfort.

Page by page you're carried away.
So let yourself go!

It's no secret red is Rilla Alexander's favorite color; finding a prominent place in all her published work.  Eye-catching and warm it beckons to readers.  A character she has placed in previous books, though never named within the pages of this title, Sozi sits reading an open book on the front of the book case.  On the back another open book is read by grinning characters found within this title.

Shades of yellow, red, orange and blue and pristine white create squares of graphic designs on the opening endpapers, three featuring Sozi oblivious of her surroundings, as she begins her day, so fully engrossed in her book.  Darker hues of green, blue, purple, red and black conclude the story on the closing endpapers as sleep comes to the characters.  Across the verso and title page, Alexander begins her narrative with the girl reading as she walks away from her home.  This two page spread zooms in on the reader bringing us close to her.

All of the remaining illustrations span double pages, edge to edge, shifting the color spectrum as the book is read and the trip is taken.  You realize time is passing and slowing with the change from a blue font to a white font; white necessary to be seen on the darker palette used.  Bold lines, easily defined shapes and altered perspectives dictate a lively mood on every aspect of this book.

I have two favorite illustrations. One is of the girl floating on the waves, wearing sunglasses, holding and sipping a drink through a straw while sitting in her long-necked bird inner tube with other creatures and characters moving beneath her in the water.  White, black, red, yellow and a turquoise blue are the only colors.  Ten pictures forward only red, black, white and a small bit of pale blue color a peaceful illustration of the girl sleeping in an open book.  It surrounds her like blankets on a bed.

The Best Book in the World written and illustrated by Rilla (Alexander) is a charming, heartfelt appreciation of the gift books are to individual readers.  When readers connect with the right book, everything else passes away, nothing else matters but the story.  The essence of a book is it never ends but begins over and over each time the cover is opened; each time it is shared.

To learn more about Rilla Alexander and her work please visit her website linked in her name.  To enjoy Sozi follow the link embedded in her name.  At the publisher's website fifteen images are posted for your viewing pleasure.  Elementary teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner interviews Rilla Alexander on his Let's Get Busy podcast giving listeners insights into this book and her work in general.  Another informative interview can be found at Look/Book.

The Best Book in the World! from Sozi on Vimeo.

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