Quote of the Month

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Then. Now. Always.

It's no longer there, the small building with white siding and a long greenhouse attached.  Memories of walking through the moist air, tending the flowers and plants, delivering arrangements and, if fortunate, helping create corsages during a busy time like the senior prom are still vivid in my mind.  At sixteen my first job outside of home was working in a local flower shop located on the same street where I lived.

After graduation from high school it was waiting tables during every vacation from college for four years, arriving at work at five in the morning, getting home at four in the afternoon and sleeping until the next day.  On campus employment was found in the food commons and at the university library.  Upon graduation the salary for my first position as a teacher librarian was $7, 986.00.  To this day one word comes to mind when I think of these various employments.  It's gratitude.

To be one person in millions contributing to the everyday life in this great nation is surprising and an honor.  To be a tiny part in this amazing whole is deeply rewarding. Three years ago to the day, on January 21, 2013 President Barack Obama was sworn into his second term of office.  The inaugural poem was released as a picture book on November 11, 2015.  One Today (Little, Brown and Company) written by Richard Blanco with illustrations by Caldecott Honoree Dav Pilkey is a stunning tribute to people in the United States, to all people.

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.  

A city and the people residing within the homes and apartments are waking.  Mothers and fathers, men and women, and girls and boys begin their day, walking and riding, laboring and learning. Each person has a purpose; no one is greater or smaller than the other.  We all do this under

one light.

One ground

sustains and supports us.  It provides a platform for all the sights, sounds, and smells associated with our work and play.  It gives us the opportunity to exist in harmony, different but alike.

Like a dome over our world

one sky

watches our accomplishments, as distinctive as the individuals performing them.  It tells us the time of day.  It predicts the weather and seasonal changes.  It shelters and supplies a roof for our love.

At the close of the day when homes are again filled with those mothers and fathers, men and women, and girls and boys the sun passes the task to the moon and stars.  Some will slumber under the light and others will watch and wonder.  As we began, we will end...as one.

Whether you listened to this poem read by Richard Blanco three years ago at President Obama's inauguration or not, the words he wrote are worth reading again and again.  He takes the grandeur of our natural landscape, the sun, ground, sky and moon, using it as a canvas upon which he paints the cherished details of our collective lives.  He mentions school buses and fruit stands, busboys, teachers and cashiers, "I have a dream" dreams, school children gone forever, public places, fields and mines, roads and bridges, the greeting of everyday people, and love.  It is a song of us and for his parents. Here is another sample passage.

Hear:  the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom / buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos dias in the language my mother taught me---in every language spoken into one wind carrying our lives without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

A single illustration, moving from left to right and night to day, displays a rolling-hills landscape dotted with homes and buildings, trees and a body of water on the dust jacket and book case.  We are introduced to an older sister walking with her younger brother and their cat.  They are integral to the illustrative interpretation of the poem along with their mother.

On the opening endpapers Dav Pilkey includes the characters' home in the foreground with bare-branched trees on either side (Is this a nod to The Little House?).  It is very early in the morning, still dark outside, as trucks roll out from the city across a bridge in the background.  On the closing endpapers the scene is repeated with the trucks returning to the city at night without the stars. A recent snowfall coats everything.

Rendered in acrylics and India ink the illustrations move through a day, the light and shadows reflecting the changes.  Each image includes wide rays of shifting colorful hues.  Most of the pictures span two pages with the text carefully placed within the picture, along the bottom, or in a side column.

The portrayals of families within their homes, the city streets and buildings, a portion of a church, a park, the river and bridge, with the two children and their cat going about their day amid these pictures as they wait for their mother's shift at the grocery store to finish are strikingly beautiful.  Pilkey alters his perspective with eloquent results; the children dancing down a quiet street as the cat leaps, only their feet and lower half of their bodies showing during an achingly sad moment, a chalk drawing joining the sister and brother along the bottom of an illustration, and the two of them gazing at the city street with their backs to us, the tip of the cat's tail showing next to them.  The color palette conveys every mood and emotion.

One of my favorite illustrations is of the sister, brother and cat dancing down the street.  On either side of them are hills, houses and buildings.  There is a cloud in the sky, shades of pink and purple shooting upward, a large halo of light mirroring the white bright sun.  It continues around and beneath the two.  This image is filled with laughter and joy.

One Today written by Richard Blanco with illustrations by Dav Pilkey is breathtaking.  It's an ode to America by two distinguished artists.  Dav Pilkey's choice to follow the mother, her children and the cat on one of their days in his illustrations reaches out and embraces readers.  This is a book for everyone.

To learn more about Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey and their other work please follow the links embedded in their names to access their websites.  If you visit the publisher's website they offer a six-page reading group guide.  At the BNKIDSBlog (Barnes & Noble) there is an extensive interview with Richard Blanco and Dav Pilkey about this title.  Susan Rich, Editor-at-large at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, is interviewed at BookPage. Enjoy the video below where Susan Rich is interviewed by Director of School & Library Marketing, Victoria Stapleton.  If you did not hear Richard Blanco reading the poem on January 21, 2013 please listen now as you turn the pages of this marvelous book.

LB School Book Chat with the Editor: ONE TODAY by Richard Blanco & illustrated by Dav Pilkey from LB School on Vimeo.


  1. I absolutely love this picture book. I discovered it in November while visiting the DC area in a children's bookstore in Alexandria. Thank you for all the wonderful links you included in your post. I highly recommend Blanco's memoir, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey. I blogged about it today and included a shout out for your post!

    1. Every time I read it Ramona I like it more. I'm glad you were able to get a copy. I hope the links will be helpful. I'll check out his memoir. Thank you for the shout out!

  2. I loved this one so much--so inspirational and the art was lovely!!

    1. This title demonstrates the breadth of Dav Pilkey's talents.