Quote of the Month

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

To Believe

To wish for something is to believe it is possible even if others name it a miracle.  Once a wish is made, even if we don't conscientiously work toward it, our marvelous minds begin to guide us in the right direction.  What's not always easy to determine is if the variables will align to make this longing realized.

There may come a time when two believe they would be better as three.  Wish (Disney Hyperion, March 3, 2015) written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell is about the desire to become parents.  It's about a wish for wonderful coming true.

At first, there is us.
There is only us.

Without the us, the elephants, even knowing it, a wish has been made.  They go about their lives; getting comfortable as a twosome, looking forward to the future, traveling through each day and to places yet unexplored.  As time passes their thinking shifts from being a duo to wanting a trio.

This wanting swells within them.  They look forward to a different future, needing to know and planning to grow.  Together they travel.  Together they rest, their anticipation heightening.  Ever alert, ever hopeful, hardly daring to breathe, they listen.  But...

Nothing is heard.  There is still only the two of them.  A yearning is unfulfilled.

Day after day the elephants live their lives but something has changed.  This is why they are unprepared.  This is why they are surprised to hear something they do not expect to hear.

It's huge.  It's loud.  It's joyful.  It's the miracle of becoming more than us.

With the beginning two words of text Matthew Cordell starts to frame expectancy for his characters and us readers.  Sentence by sentence he builds his story, the relationship of the two elephants and our connection to them.  We know change is coming, we hope for it as they do.  We feel their excitement, their sadness and sudden bliss.

The narrative is simple but profound.  Many times the sentences will contain only two words.  Each word in each thought has been carefully chosen; specific words in specific places.  Matthew Cordell employs a form of repetition from the time as us to the hope for welcoming a you.  Here is a sample passage.

And then we wait.
We listen.
So quiet, 
so patient,
so still.

You can't see it but on the copy I hold in my hand above the two elephants with their wish colorfully displayed, a tiny elephant, eyes closed in the center, are the words

family begins with a ...

To me the pale yellow background signifies a new endeavor and creativity.  On the back of the dust jacket, the two elephants have their arms around each other, gazing out across the sea as their wish finds a path toward the sun.

Beneath the jacket is a treat for readers, pale blue spreads across the left and right, the wish stream taking us toward the baby elephant.  The opening and closing endpapers are patterned in the pastel representation of the wish.  A single small picture of the two elephants facing each other with the wish coming from their trunks is shown on the title page.  It's in the shape of love.

Using bamboo pen and India ink and watercolor on paper for his illustrations, Matthew Cordell places his setting at the seaside.  He opens and closes his story on a tiny island; the time of day and what is featured on the island differing.  When the two hopeful elephants plan to be parents their vessel for travel is no longer a plane of their own making but a boat.  As time passes for the couple, the landscape of their home on the shore changes.

 Cordell alters his image sizes to match the pace of his story, single page to double page to a series of vignettes.  White space is an element used skillfully.  Detailed images, emotion in every stroke, extend the narrative elevating it to elegance.

One of my favorite pictures is of the two elephants in front of their home after experiencing their disappointment.  You can see the objects used for their two journeys and hope in the form of trees.  They are flying a kite on a sunny seaside day.  Ever so faintly in the walkway leading to their front door is a hint of the wish.

Wish written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell is a book to share with children to let them know how important they truly are.  It's a book for people whether they are parents or not.  It's about nurturing a thought toward reality.  It's about becoming a family.

To discover more about Matthew Cordell please visit his website and blog by following the links attached to his name.  In a guest post at KidsReads Matthew Cordell speaks about using elephants in this title and more about the book itself.  At The Styling Librarian read an interview about many of Matthew Cordell's titles. For a chat with Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell follow this link to Number Five Bus Presents...  Matthew Cordell has been a guest at author and blogger Julie's Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast several times. Follow the link to a list of those posts including an extensive one about his work.

UPDATE:  Please follow this link to teacher librarian extraordinaire and blogger John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read. to view the book trailer and read Matthew Cordell's heartfelt message about this book.  

UPDATE:  Please follow this link to super teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner's Let's Get Busy Podcast with Matthew Cordell.  You might want to have tissues handy.

UPDATE:  Please follow this link to an interview of Matthew Cordell at Debbie Ridpath Ohi's blog, Inkygirl.com


  1. Such a wonderful review and OH, this trailer :) I can't wait to see this book in full! :)

    1. Thank you! Doesn't the trailer simply melt your heart?! I hope you get to see the book soon.