Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Two Letters, A Single Word, A Single Note

With every tick of the clock, the opportunity for change is present regardless of the previous minutes, days, weeks, months or years in the past.  We are six days into a new year.  Anticipation fills the air.  People seem more determined than ever to pursue a difference, a difference for the greater good and ultimately for them.

Throughout social media people are selecting one word to guide them through the year.  These words are highly significant for them.  The explanations they offer for their choices are heartfelt and inspiring.  La La La: A story of hope (Candlewick Press, October 3, 2017) written by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations by Jaime Kim has been on my desk next to my computer since its release.  With each reading the reminder to readers, to me, to reach out with our voice is strengthened.  And sometimes when a single word is lifted in song it resonates more beautifully.


A little girl opens her mouth and releases a word into the world, not once, not twice but three times.  She waits for a reply.  She tries again.  There is still no response.

Slightly discouraged she walks until leaves drift down toward her.  She sings her word, hoping for an answer.  The leaves lead her to a place filled with natural splendor.  She continues to send the one-word melody toward a rock, a tree and all the branches on the tree.  She runs along a pond, singing.  She is greeted with silence.

Darkness has fallen. The leaves beckon her back into the special spot.   A strong light illuminates the surrounding area in a beam as it rises in the sky.  The little girl sings.  She does everything she can believing this marvelous moon can and will sing back to her.  The only sound is the stillness of the night.

Sad and a little bit mad, she drags the object she used to get close to the moon back and sits.  As she drifts off to sleep, a soft, gentle La leaves her lips.  A loud musical note wakes her up. In wonder she watches, she runs and a quiet, joyful nighttime conversation dispels her aloneness.

In her singular use of words to express an idea or a belief Kate DiCamillo takes one word, one very small word, and depicts the value in courage and persistence.  She allows us to see how the child does not give up even when exhaustion wraps around her.  Kate also reminds us to wait.  Sometimes the answer we seek takes time to arrive.  It usually appears when we least expect it.  When it makes its presence known, it's much better than we imagined.

Look at the child, hands clasped, foot lifted in a little dance, eyes closed and mouth open in song.  There is something heartwarming and endearing about her facial expression, clothing and stance.  You want to know her.  You want to be her friend.  We are not privy yet when looking at the dust jacket as to the source of the circular light around her but the colors selected suggest a warm connection.  As the shade of rose red bleeds to the spine it leads us to the darker shades of purple indicative of nighttime on the back.  Leaves and stardust frame the words:

What if you were
able to connect with someone?

What if you were
able to sing?

The book case expands on the presentation on the jacket back.  Both sides are covered in purple with star dust.  Extending from the spine are mirror images of flowers and leaves.  The opening and closing endpapers are a silvery blue, like dusk.

Rendered using watercolor, sumi ink, and digital techniques Jaime Kim elevates the narrative to a magical realm.  The type of paper, heavier without any gloss, allows the child, the leaves and additional elements to cast a shiny reflection when tilted in the light.  They seem to move on the pages.  It's a masterful technique.  When the special spot covers two pages, the illustration literally glows.

As the child moves from point to point our eyes follow her flawlessly.  We are completely intrigued with her movements and secretly cheer for her success as Jaime Kim adds new delicate details.  Readers will be captivated by the significance of the leaves.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at night.  The little girl is getting closer and closer to the source of the song she heard.  She steps through tall grasses, parting the plants.  The moon is reflected in the water in front of her.  Stardust and leaves tumble in the air.  Vegetation borders the pond.  A tall tree extends from the right side.  As an inset, Jaime Kim has added a small framed picture on the right side.  It's a close-up of the child's face.  Her mouth is forming an "o" in awe of what she sees.

No matter how many times you read La La La: A story of hope written by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations by Jaime Kim, it will leave you deeply moved and inspired.  Children have many lessons to teach us if we keep open to all they have to offer.  Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim both speak at the close of the book.  I highly recommend you place this title in all your collections.  In case you might be wondering about the power of the single word sung, I started singing La La La from my office.  My puppy, Mulan, two rooms away came running.

To learn more about both Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At Penguin Random House you are given a peek at several interior pages in the book's beginning.  At Candlewick Press there is a teacher's guide about using wordless books in the classroom.  For the introduction of the book trailer Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, interviews Kate here and Jaime on the following day at Watch. Connect. Read., his blog.

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