Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No Matter The Weather

You're walking back to your car after a quick stop to purchase a few items.  Suddenly the voice, growing more persistent of late, tells you to stop and look up. (Read Now by Antoinette Portis and you'll know what I mean.)  This is why on a blazing hot afternoon on the first day of August you find yourself taking pictures of clouds with your phone while standing in the parking lot of a big box store.  You hope with all your heart, they are a prelude to much-needed rain.

Rain will soften the ground, hard as cement.  Rain will ease the stress of the wild animals needing to quench their thirst.  Rain will help the towering trees whose leaves are drifting down far too early for lack of water.  This Beautiful Day (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, August 1, 2017) written by Richard Jackson with illustrations by Suzy Lee reminds us of the magic to be found in a joyful heart with a little help from music.

THIS beautiful day...

Three siblings are lounging inside on a dreary rainy day with their dog accompanying them.  Clearly they are at a loss of what to do when one of them reaches to a radio twisting the dial for a bit of music.  He then leans forward in his bean bag chair arms raised and ready.  Before you can say let's dance, they are twirling and turning to the tune.

Hats and umbrellas are grabbed as the trio opens the doors and continues to lift their legs and gallop to the beat.  To them this day is filled with possibilities as they splish and splash through puddles, hooting and hollering with glee.  Certainly all the fun they are having is sure to draw the attention of others.  And it does.

Other neighborhood children carrying colorful umbrellas follow the lead of the brother and his sisters.  All the celebratory noise they make gets the attention of the sun.  It pushes the clouds away.

Eight children and one dog are cheering, laughing and playing as if this is the best day of their lives.  And isn't this the way to live?  They all tumble home, for snacks and a little bit of relaxing.  Come on Mom!  Join the jamboree!

Oh, the uninhibited elation these words written by Richard Jackson generate for readers.  His use of this beautiful day repeatedly ties his happy-go-lucky verbs together in an uplifting tempo.  To complete his symphony of delight lines end in rhyming words. Here is a continuation of the first line.

has everyone dancing
and spinning
and swinging around,
has all of us stamping
and stomping
our feet 
on the ground. ...

When you open the dust jacket, which matches the book case, you will be thrilled to notice that Suzy Lee continues the image on the front to the edge of the flap.  There we read the words:

the weather's

To the left, on the back, two of the siblings and the dog are leaping into the air as clouds scatter on a blue sky.  A single red umbrella drifts toward the right hand corner.  The opening endpapers are black, gray and white.  Rain pours from smudgy rain clouds.  On the closing endpapers the ending of the story continues.

With a page turn from the opening endpapers Suzy Lee starts the story opposite the title page.  The younger sister sits in a cardboard box staring out the window at the rain.  The older sister is slumped in boredom in front of a sketch pad and crayons.  This is done in black and white as is the first wordless image opposite the verso.  The dog sleeps in front of the French doors as the brother turns on the radio.

All of the illustrations span two pages.  As the children begin to dance the color blue is added to the black, gray and white.  The more fun they have, the more blue there is with pale green appearing.  As the clouds vanish more color is used.  

The depiction of the children, their facial expressions and body movements, is marvelous to the point you will find yourself wanting to join them.  Every single line and brush stroke is pulsing with pure jubilation.  When the umbrellas rise into the sky it's as if they are moved by this wonderful emotion.  

One of my many favorite illustrations I will let you discover for yourselves.  Suzy Lee takes us into a brief bit of suspended reality, a touch of magic.  Another of my favorite pictures is when the three siblings are splashing in the puddles.  The two older ones with the dog in the middle are jumping with total merriment, laughing and holding their umbrellas high.  Behind them the younger sister is marching and kicking out water in front of her as she holds her umbrella.  The dog is standing on its hind legs, leaping with its head raised, ears flapping and front paws close to its chest.  There is not a single person who can look at this without smiling.

This book, This Beautiful Day written by Richard Jackson with illustrations by Suzy Lee, is bursting with energy.  Readers will not be able to sit still when reading or listening to this.  Be ready to dance, rain or shine.  You will want to have a copy of this on your professional and personal bookshelves.  You have to read it...repeatedly.

To learn more about Suzy Lee and her other work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images. Please enjoy this interview with Richard Jackson at Bookology.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features Suzy Lee on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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