There are distinct advantages to being small in size and height. You can be comfortable in small spaces when traveling. When wanting to curl up on a sofa or chair to take a snooze or read a good book, you'll be cozier quicker than most other people. You will always be excellent at playing hide-and-seek. When you need to reach something on a grocery shelf, you can feel confident stepping on other shelves to reach an item, knowing nothing will break. Your younger students will feel like they share something in common with you. Your older students will get a kick out of coming up to you and stating, "I'm almost taller than you are."
One notable disadvantage is the overwhelming feeling of not being able to see when you are in a large crowd. Thankfully our other senses are stronger when one is unable to function properly. Pax and Blue (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, February 7, 2017) written and illustrated by Lori Richmond gives us a peek at a budding friendship between a human and a bird who share common character traits. The boy has, as you will discover, another beautiful sense he has nurtured.
Some kids have a dog or a cat or a fish.
Pax has a pigeon he calls Blue.
Each morning Pax chats with Blue and gives him a bit of toast. He understands very well how being little can be a challenge. One morning Pax's mom is in a hurry.
Pax can't chat with Blue. Pax can't give Blue a piece of toast. Pax is being pulled along by his mom. Blue does not understand.
Pax is very worried about leaving Blue without so much as a word or sharing his food. Blue does what any hungry, lonely pigeon would do. He follows Pax. Immediately Blue can see this is a mistake. Everyone is huge. Where is he?
When Blue's presence is discovered on the subway car, feathers fly, literally and figuratively. The adults create chaos. Pax creates peace. He is thrilled to see his friend. He knows exactly what to do. When some least expects it, a child becomes a hero.
Children have an innate desire to help those, especially animals, not noticed by adults. They feel a kinship with them. Lori Richmond has expressed this desire and kinship wonderfully. In her simple sentences she speaks to the empathic portion of all readers' hearts which may be large or in need of growth. In the character of Pax she shows us how a relationship is formed between a child and an animal. She also helps us to understand once a friendship like this is formed, a true friend feels responsible. Here are several sentences (which can be seen with the illustrations at the publisher's website).
But this morning was different.
Pax knew little ones can get rushed along---
especially when Mom can't be late.
Blue didn't understand.
And there was no on to explain.
The deliberate, limited color palette seen on the opened dust jacket is used by Lori Richmond throughout the book. The only stand-out colors are on Pax and Blue drawing our attention to them rather than the other people or the surroundings. To the left, on the back, is a rear view of the subway car with the ISBN strategically placed. Staring out the window is the head of Blue.
A pale purple covers the book case. A wide, black spine extends into the canvas. Walking across the bottom beneath the title text and author name is Blue, tracks extending from the back to the front. On the spine the text is in silver foil. The opening and closing endpapers are a shade of the green seen on the front of the dust jacket.
Rendered in ink, watercolor, and charcoal, and composited digitally each image is a delicate portrait enhancing the text. Some of the illustrations are placed on one page loosely framed on the matte-finished paper. Others extend across two pages, edge to edge. For emphasis and emotional impact Lori places single elements on one page, shifting the perspective. Her stacked picture of the interior of the subway station is brilliant.
One of my many favorite illustrations is of Pax looking at Blue after pandemonium broke out in their car. There is quite a bit of purple on this page. On the right Pax is hanging upside down looking under the seat at Blue on the left. All we see of both of them is their heads (and one of Pax's hands). It is a huge moment of connection between friends.
In a busy world where everything seems to move at a too-fast pace, Pax and Blue written and illustrated by Lori Richmond is a marvelous reminder for us to notice those smaller than we are. It asks us to view the world with the eyes of others and to choose compassion. I highly recommend you place this on your professional and personal bookshelves. I would pair it with Little Elliot, Big City and How To Be A Bigger Bunny.
Take a moment or two to visit Lori Richmond's website by following the link attached to her name. She has a page talking about the creative process for this book. Follow the second link attached to her name. At the publisher's website you can view interior images. Lori has been interviewed at Mile High Reading, Karlin Gray's blog, Monica Wellington's news, KidLit 411, and 32/7. You can read about Lori Richmond's family vacation journals at the DailyMail.