Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Anything Becomes Possible

Lifelong readers of every age know time takes on a new and more complex meaning when we step into the pages of a book.  We become one with the story dropping the time in which we live to replace it with the time represented in the book.  When we do this the minutes, hours, days and even weeks in our real world move as they always have even though we are bound by the events in the characters' lives.  Every reader knows the feeling of finishing a story, looking up from the page and wondering for those first few seconds where they are.

Every individual has their own story dictated by their choices.  In every imagined story anything is possible however improbable.  Therein resides the adventure.  A Child of Books (Candlewick Press, September 6, 2016) written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a celebration of journeys and destinations.

I am a child of books.

These are the words of a young girl, seated and reading a book.  Her legs are dangling in the water over the edge of a raft, sail taunt in a stiff breeze.  She moves over waves of words, words fashioned from her books.

She seeks another; a partner who will share in her explorations.  She notices some may have lost their ability to be a child of books but this girl knows the way.  She will guide the boy who accepts her invitation.

Words ignite their imaginations.  Together they can scale heights, find light where there seems to be none, see the trees as well as the entire woods and escape dreaded encounters.  When the day slips into night, they dream from beds built on classic melodies.

Each point in their travels exemplifies their final declaration, a declaration which gets to the essence of the worlds every living soul inhabits.  We live in our homes and in our own special spaces because of sharing a common connection.  It is the key to anything.

These two talented authors and illustrators, Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, use eight lyrical observations to design their narrative.  Separately each one lifts up the capacity of story and books and what we each take away from reading.  Together they are a symphony of affection and appreciation. They begin with I and end with we.  They begin with a lock, leading us to the key.

But along these words I can show you the way.

The rich maroon seen on the front of the dust jacket extends to the end of each flap, slightly darker on the edges like an ancient piece of parchment.  The fragments of lines flowing from the book's spine are familiar beginnings.  The authors' names, the decorations on the spine and the lock are in gold foil.  To the left on the back of the jacket is a single item, a large golden key, softened in color, old as time.  The book case is red cloth, a lock embossed on the front and a key embossed on the back.  The opening and closing endpapers are rows and rows of titles of books in bold and their authors in finer and lighter print.

On the title page beneath the text in the signature blue, drawn by hand in ink, is the book lying flat, the lock like a welcome.  With a page turn the dedication appears with a pot of ink placed in the upper right hand corner.  Opposite this is a blank sheet of parchment paper with a metal tipped dip pen lying across it on an otherwise empty page.

Rendered in watercolor, pencil, and digital collage all of the images span two pages with the exception of the closing page.  Many portions of the pictures are formed using phrases and sentences tiny enough to be lines but large enough to be read.  The choice of books and words pair beautifully with each picture.  When the girl is sailing on the waves, the titles and words are from The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Count of Monte Cristo, Kidnapped, Gulliver's Travels, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  In the forest titles and words of fairy tales form branches on the trees.  To escape a monster in a castle, the girl and boy climb down a rope from words taken from Rapunzel.  

The spare flowing lines and use of little color on the cream colored pages make the swirl of color and words toward the end even more dynamic.  From this visual forward no more titles and passages from books appear, making the final few pictures and the tiny words appearing absolutely breathtaking.  The final page is simply perfection.

One of my favorite illustrations is of the girl and boy at night.  The background is a steely dark blend of blues and blacks.  A few stars appear among eight clouds.  Five of the clouds are shaped from beloved lullabies.  On the left side a red ladder rests on a cloud where the girl sleeps.  On the right side a red ladder lays on another cloud where the boy rests.

A Child of Books written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a stunning title about the stories found in books.  It is a marvelous example of bookmaking; every single element chosen with a beautiful whole in mind.  This is a gift to share with everyone often.  It is a joy to open again and again.

To learn more about Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston and their other work please follow the link to their respective websites attached to their names.  At publishers' websites here and here you can see additional images.  A website dedicated to this book is here. Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston speak about this book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, PICTUREBOOK MAKERS, The Guardian, Children's Books, and at Entertainment. Oliver Jeffers talks about the book on CBC Radio.  You can find a publisher generated interview here as well as a teacher's guide here.


  1. I could listen to both of them talk all day :). Have been waiting to read this one for awhile!

    1. I agree Maria. Their accents are a blessing to one's ears. It's a sheer genius of a book.