Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It Never Fails

She was in her twenties before she heard him say those three powerful words to her.  He was a believer in actions speaking louder than words.  There was no doubt of his love for her but to hear those words spoken to her with quiet purpose is a cherished memory.

Love manifests itself silently without fanfare in everyday moments, a smile or an extended hand.  It can roar so the whole world is aware of its presence.  Love (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, January 9, 2018) written by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Loren Long lifts up love so readers can rejoice in its beauty as it radiates into our hearts and surrounds our souls.

In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing
near the foot of your bed,
and the sound of their voices is love.

If you listen and look you will hear it and see it in the city scene as you pass by in a taxi.  Love makes an appearance no matter where you live or the time of day.  You need to let it wash over you in the gifts given by Mother Nature and in the singular sounds of human progress.

Children of all ages in all seasons give love in their laughter.  Reach out, share it and join in their joy. In the midst of tragedy, heartache, or a nightmare, a voice can shelter us or a pet can comfort us and speak of love.  Love wraps around us every single day if we think about the people who are a part of our lives.  What they do is a love song just for us.

Have you ever studied the face of a grandparent, parent or beloved adult?  The wrinkles lining their faces represent paths traveled to give love.  Do you remember family stories?  Is there one member whose tales are taller than the others?  This is love.

Strangers send love into the world when they pursue their musical passion.  You have love too.  It's seen in your reflection.  So sweet children, wherever you go, there is love in you, in others, and in the world.

These twenty five sentences, these phrases, written by Matt de la Pena speak of seeking and finding love in ordinary places, in spaces we share with others.  He asks us to be aware and to understand the numerous forms of love.  Readers will be connected to other readers through Matt's depictions of love beginning with his first sentence.  This connection will broaden and grow deeper page by page.  Here are three sentences, one following the other.

And in time you learn to recognize
a love overlooked.
A love that wakes at dawn and
rides to work on the bus.
A slice of burned toast that tastes like love. 

When I first looked at the dust jacket with the shades of yellow and rich blues with a hint of purple, it wrapped around me like a hug. (When I left home for the first time going to college my mother made me a bedspread, pillow case and pillows in these colors.  She said it was to remind me of her and her favorite flowers, violets.)  Artists will tell you these hues are close to complementary.  The front of this dust jacket reminds us storms will pass and sunshine (sunrises and sunsets) will always follow, like love.  This image of the father and child with the yellow umbrella is precious.  To the left, on the back, the darker blue color provides a canvas for a puddle spreading from the top, left portion.  Reflected in the puddle is the child walking and carrying a closed umbrella.  The title text is varnished.

On the book case a thin layer of grass spans from left to right.  Along the top is a slightly larger layer of sky with wisps of clouds.  In the center is bright golden yellow.  This is deeply symbolic.  On the opening and closing endpapers is a deep, deep shade of blue.  On a background of pure white the initial title page shows the word love.  On the formal title page the design of the book case is repeated.

Rendered in

collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint and pencil

the illustrations created by Loren Long will literally take your breath away.   Some of them are loosely framed circles on a single page, others cross the gutter from left to right or right to left leaving a column for text and others span two pages framed in white.  There are single page pictures too.  Loren uses full color but his choices convey mood such as when the child is searching for love in a dream and can't find it.  His perspectives represent shifts in emotion and emphasize those emotions.

The words of Matt de la Pena are enhanced by Loren Long's images.  When Matt speaks of a ride in a cab through a city our eyes are immediately drawn first to the taxis lining the curb.  We are aware of the layers of buildings in the background and the framing of the trees.  We are transported to this park.  A red balloon drifts in the air.  We see the vendor's stand on the far left.  A woman holding a hot dog in one hand and a dog leash, attached to her pup, in the other hand is watching.  To the right a boy in a wheel chair is holding out a hot dog to a man resting on a bench.  A single crutch is leaning against that bench.  There are many stories in this scene.  Each illustration Loren has given us is replete with details inviting discussion and contemplation.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the one for the above-quoted text. It is on a single page.  Two children stand at a window.  The younger of the two is looking outside the window.  It's winter and a man carrying a lunch pail is trudging through the snow toward a bus.  An older sibling is facing the boy, handing him a glass of juice and carrying a plate with burned toast on it.  A large radiator is beneath the window.  (My dad worked in the same factory for forty-one years.  I still have the thermos he carried.  I can't remember him ever missing a day of work.  And I can't eat toast unless it's burned.  My mom always burned the toast.)

Love written by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Loren Long is as the title states but make no mistake, this is a book conceived and created with love by these two men.  The words and images are about all of us.  We can see and sense ourselves on every single page.  You will want to have multiple copies of this title for your professional collections, at least one for your personal collections and this is one you will be gifting to others often.  Thank you Matt de la Pena and Loren Long.  Thank you with all of my heart.

To learn more about Matt de la Pena and Loren Long and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Both of them have pages on their sites dedicated to Love. (Matt and Loren)  Please visit those special pages for further understanding of their work on this title.  At the publisher's website you are given a peek inside the book.  Matt de la Pena and Loren Long are guests on NPR's All Things Considered.  You will certainly want to visit Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., to read the interview with Matt and Loren.  You can also view the marvelous book trailer too.

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