Every educator knows more than one person is responsible for ensuring our children develop to their full potential as citizens of the world. And I know I have said this before but school librarians are in an invaluable position to see all the children in the school for at least three years, usually four or five, sometimes six, depending on the type of school. This brings a singular understanding of the web woven by the children's personalities and their families. We get to see the forest and the trees.
Today during a break I headed down to my friend Colby Sharp's classroom to show him a book. His students are testing so we had a whispered conversation but as I turned to leave, he handed me what I will call one of the best gifts of my day. I was told I could take it to read overnight. As soon as I got home and after playing with my wild child, furry friend, I stood at the island counter and read It Takes a Village (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 12, 2017) written by Hillary Rodham Clinton with illustrations by Marla Frazee. There were several times, as I turned the pages, when I stopped and reminded myself to breathe.
Sometimes it takes a child
This village includes every single one of us. Each one of us is valuable and essential to the success of the village. We all learn each and every day.
It's important for children to understand adults don't always have all the answers. It's important for adults to understand children have to ask questions. Children need someone to speak for them. Sometimes they need an entire group or a nation to speak for them.
Despite how strong a family may seem to us on the outside, there will come a time when they need our assistance. In this village we have to recognize their need offering support in gestures of compassion. Taking lessons from the natural world we have to pause and play and rest.
We need to believe...in each other...and...in our children. It does take a village. Our children deserve nothing less than the best.
Having read this narrative, the words in this text, several times, I can say with certainty Hillary Rodham Clinton chose each word with great care. There are only eighteen sentences, phrases or words (with punctuation at the end) in total but each builds to a whole which speaks a profound truth. Running beneath these words is a warmth and knowledge of children. It honors their intelligence and acknowledges their needs. I would like to share a favorite passage as I usually do but I want you to read this book for the first time as I did without benefit of knowing what to expect.
When you unfold the matching dust jacket and book case, the first thing you notice about the front, on the right, is the intricate details, the fine line work, of illustrator Marla Frazee. You need to take a few minutes to notice all these people at rest and play. They span a spectrum of ages and nationalities engaged in a variety of activities. It is indeed a village. To the left, on the back, is a picture, set on a canvas of white, of Hillary Clinton hugging a child.
(Oh, Marla...the endpapers. I can't even imagine how long these must have taken you to create.) On the opening and closing endpapers, edge to edge, is an American flag. Along the upper line of the red stripe (hardiness and valor) are the tiniest outlines of villages, one following the other. Over some are skylines reflective of the time of day or the current weather. In the lower right hand corner amid rays of sunlight is a double rainbow peeking through clouds.
The title page includes an image of three children and a dog moving up a winding road toward a bare, lone tree on top of a hill. Marla begins the story here. Rendered in pencil and watercolor on Strathmore paper the illustrations vary from single page pictures, to groups of pictures depicting a passage of time and panoramic double-page pictures. Every element in each picture enhances the idea of a village inclusive of all people and all children.
All the clothing worn by the people, their body postures and facial expressions reveal their personalities even though we never meet them but we do recognize them. They are people we see when out running errands, attending entertainment events or walking our dog in the neighborhood. They are us.
One of my favorite sequences of illustrations heightens the meaning of two of my favorite phrases. There are eleven small visuals spanning two pages. We see children and adults taking naps, parents taking care of their children, a bumped knee getting attention and a group of children reading. I'll focus on the five guys and gals reading. A single blanket in red and black plaid is spread on the ground. They are sprawled in a row across it. Over four of them is a blue blanket with blue stars. One child is using the blue blanket as a cover, another as a cushion and the final three as a tent.
I believe you need to have a copy of It Takes a Village written by Hillary Rodham Clinton with illustrations by Marla Frazee in your professional and personal library collections. This book is an important, timely and timeless reminder for us. Everything we do is for the future, for our children. And they need to know this. Hillary Rodham Clinton provides an Author's Note at the conclusion.
The link attached to Hillary Rodham Clinton's name will take you to her 2016 site for the presidential campaign because I was unable to find a site dedicated to her as an author. It is important to note how often during the video she mentions being a champion for children. This has been a constant during her life. The link attached to Marla Frazee's name will take you to her website. There you can learn more about her and her other work. At the publisher's website you can view interior images from this title as well as download a four page activity guide. Hillary Rodham Clinton was interviewed at BookExpo 2017. Marla Frazee was interviewed at Andrea Skyberg's website (lots of art and views of her studio) and at Reading Rockets. Enjoy the videos.
Marla Frazee from Adam Goodwin on Vimeo.