Quote of the Month

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Finding Your Fearless Center

Depending on any given situation we need, throughout our lives, all kinds of courage.  It comes in all shapes and sizes; a little bit is welcome here and a whole bunch is imperative there.  What we find daunting, others may accept with ease.  It is most important to remember everyone, without exception, needs courage.  Finding that necessary strength is the key to unlocking our potential.

When a family moves, all the changes and all the unknowns, regardless of a sense of adventure some feel, are hurdles of fear to be faced.  When You Are Brave (Little, Brown and Company, March 5, 2019) written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler addresses how one girl works her way to bravery.  It's not easy but it is well worth the effort.

Some days,
when everything around
you seems scary . . . 

you have to be brave.

There is the brave a bird feels when first flying, a dog needs when looking for home and a caterpillar cocooned and waiting must summon.  If you think back, there are times, other than today's challenges, when you were looking directly into scary situations.  Do you remember how overwhelming it was?  It was too much of everything.

When this happens, and it will, you must look for the special place where courage is tucked away.  You have to focus. Soon what you seek will appear.  Sometimes it's tiny but you can make it bigger.

Keep your eyes closed and imagine it spreading like the sun's rays at daybreak, warming more and more of everything it touches.  You have the power to determine how large your courage will be.  You have the power to keep it growing.  Think of the love inside and outside of you.

With this kind of bravery, you know you can leap over all those barriers to true happiness.  Will it be easy? No.  Will there be setbacks? Yes.  We are all still here and you will be, too.  

The voice used in this narrative by Pat Zietlow Miller is soothing and supportive.  She can see into a child's heart with sincere compassion.  She builds from scary situations toward bravery by defining it with things a child would usually see; a bird, a dog and a caterpillar.  She refers to other frightening circumstances experienced by the little girl, noting how those were overcome.  

What is most pleasing is the reference to courage as a light in the dark.  Her descriptors create a sense of security.  Most of us know how a spark can grow into a flame of brightness, glowing and reaching as far as we desire.  Here is a passage from the interior and back jacket.

You can make your courage
so big it brightens your heart,
fills your fingers, and flows to your toes.

When you look at the girl standing on the front of the jacket (I'm working with an F & G.) her bravery lights up the world around her.  Artist/illustrator Eliza Wheeler works complementary colors into the other elements in the new neighborhood.  Do you see what the tiny beams of light are forming around the smiling child?  This is a stunning reference to some of the narrative.  

The scene on the front carries over the spine to the left, on the back.  Here we see a lovely forest landscape at night with stars shining overhead.  The family's car, pulling a trailer full of household items, is traveling over a bridge.  A stream extends from the hills and falls under the bridge.  We can see the sparks of light from the girl's courage coming from the car and lighting up portions of the leaves below the bridge.  It's interesting how the perspective from the front, a close-up, shifts to a more panoramic view on the back.

The opening and closing endpapers reflect the growth of the girl's courage.  On the first swirls of yellow light flow into blue.  The blend makes green framing.  On the back the light is larger and brimming with warmer colors.  It pulses with life.

Eliza Wheeler wastes no space using the verso and title pages for her first interpretive illustration.  The father and a neighbor are packing the car as other neighbors help.  The mother waits for her daughter, still inside and peeking out her bedroom window.  There is a slight glow in the sky.  With each page turn this glow dims until everything is cloaked in darker hues of blue.  

Most of the pictures rendered

with India ink, watercolors, colored pastel pencils, and acrylic paint on Lanaquarelle Watercolor paper 

span two pages.  We are aware of the emotional outlook of the child by her facial expressions and the altered perspectives.  We see her sitting in the backseat of the car, a stuffed animal close to her and a box of toys on the other side.  She is holding a photo album.  With a page turn the album is spread across the page. Eliza Wheeler keeps shifting the point of view in complete sync with the narrative.  Just as the light faded in the beginning, it becomes a sunrise as courage blooms and the family arrives at their destination.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is looking through the front window in the back seat at the child.  In front of her are her parents, the one sleeping and the other driving.  The girl is visualizing her courage with closed eyes.  Wings are spread wide on either side of her, delicately dotted with tiny beams of light.  (If any of you need to hold a picture in your mind or heart when thinking of courage, this is the picture you need.)

When You Are Brave written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler is a beautiful portrait of finding courage.  It is one of those books readers will read repeatedly.  It is one of those books listeners will ask you to read not once, or twice but certainly three times.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal book collections.  Be sure you read the other wonderful title by this collaborative team, Wherever You Go.

To learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Pat Zietlow Miller has an account on Twitter.  If you want to see the book case, Pat has a pinned tweet displaying it for viewers.  Eliza Wheeler has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Pat Zietlow Miller wrote a guest post at author Lynne Marie's My Word Playground about this title. Please take a few moments to enjoy the video below as Eliza Wheeler speaks about her process for this book.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

Book Chat with the Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler from LB School on Vimeo.

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