Whether you've lived in the same community your entire life or it's brand new for you, today is a different day. Today is the start of something filled with potential and unexpected twists and turns. Today is about being your best self and helping others to be the same.
As individuals open the doors of their school and walk down the hallways, they need to know everyone is accepted and appreciated regardless of physical characteristics, ethnicity, or religion. All Are Welcome (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, July 10, 2018) written by Alexandra Penfold with illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman is like walking into a party where everyone got an invitation. All feel the jubilation of being honored equally.
Pencils sharpened in their case.
Bells are ringing, let's make haste.
School's beginning, dreams to chase.
All are welcome here.
Children chatter around the room as parents deliver them into their teacher's care. The gals and guys come from countries around the world, dressing differently, practicing religions differently and living in families with different dynamics. They embrace these differences. They are children.
Spending time with musical instruments and placing colorful paints on paper with brushes is done with merry intention. There are universal truths found in the telling of certain tales. Connections are made through these stories. They are children.
Midway through the day, the cafeteria is an array of cuisine from various continents. Food is shared and tasted. The playground is a happy haven of games galore. All join together for fun. They are children.
In this neighborhood diversity is uplifted. The knowledge and gifts of one child are freely given to another. Cultural traditions are enjoyed by all. When the school day comes to a close, everyone leaves hardly able to wait for the next day. They embrace these differences. They are children. They are hope. Sweet dreams you beautiful little people.
As you read these words written by Alexandra Penfold you find yourself gently swaying or maybe softly tapping your foot. Whether you are reading them silently or aloud, a melody comes unbidden into the stream of the story. The repeat of the phrase All are welcome here invites participation. There is never a question of whether a child or their family is acknowledged or respected. It's simply who the people in this school are. By the time you get to the end, you find yourself wrapped in harmony and happiness. It's the best kind of feeling. Here is another passage.
Open doors, rush outside.
We will swing we will slide.
We'll have fun side by side.
All are welcome here.
Animated and vibrant the image spread across the opened dust jacket celebrates all children and their families. They are eager to enter their school building. They are smiling and greeting each other. The yellow and white striped walkway and the bold and bright colors on their clothing placed on a white varnished background shouts out a big "Hello world! Here we come!" (There is a treat on the inside of the dust jacket.) On the book case thirty different children in three rows of ten (separated by the spine) are spread across the front and back. They are clasping hands and looking right at the readers. It's as if they are saying we are in this together. Won't you join us?
On the opening and closing endpapers a cityscape including the school is presented. On the first parents are walking through the neighborhood with their children at the start of the day. (In this picture and all the images there is a prevalent use of primary colors.) On the final endpapers the school day is over and it's near sunset. Families are gathering again and carrying food for a special festival. The school building is on the left side. As our eyes move to the right we see the playground. Behind this are apartment buildings. Beneath the title text a taxi is en route. A father is driving his little girl to school.
All of the illustrations created using acrylic paint, ink, crayon, and collage with Adobe Photoshop by Suzanne Kaufman span either two pages, a single page, or several visuals are grouped on one or two pages. These shifts in size contribute to enhancing the text and accentuating the pacing. Some of the smaller pictures are loosely framed in soft shapes. A dramatic four-page gatefold will send your spirits soaring.
It's important to notice all the details Suzanne Kaufman uses in completing her images. The color and type of clothing, the body positions and facial expressions on all the people, adults and children, and what is emphasized in the classroom settings contribute to the overall sense of the book. She uses white space as a valuable element throughout the story.
One of my many favorite illustrations is when the children are on the playground after lunch. It spans two pages. (Even after looking at it multiple times, I expect to hear the shouts and laughter of the children at any moment.) Across three quarters of the picture is the surface of the playground. Above that is a layer of grass and then blue sky, trees bearing fall foliage and a full sun. Several children are reading under one of the trees. On the left all four swings are being used. Children are bouncing a ball for four square. Teether balls are looping around poles on the right. Two children are playing near the red slide. A group gathers around the map of the world painted on the surface of the playground. This is a wonderful sight!
Have you ever looked at something so full of pure contentment you wanted to laugh out loud? This book, All Are Welcome written by Alexandra Penfold with illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman, is one of those things. The blend of words and illustrations leaves readers with a form of bliss so complete, there will be many requests to have it read again. I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. Both Alexandra and Suzanne maintain blogs. Alexandra is on Twitter and Instagram. Suzanne is also on Twitter. You can view interior pages at the publisher's website. This book and Suzanne are showcased at Pragmatic Mom: Education Matters.