Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pursuing With Purpose

Upon waking in the morning, we have no idea the course our day will take.  Each morning is a new beginning, an opportunity to embrace the positive. Sure, we have certain expectations, maybe even plans, but those can change in a blink of an eye.

Perhaps the path followed through the hours is more about finding one single, simple thing to bring us joy.  Daniel's Good Day (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, May 14, 2019) written and illustrated by Micha Archer is about a little boy's neighborhood exploration in search of that very thing.  What he discovers, what readers discover, is combined individuals' contentment is something exceptional.

Daniel knows many people 
in his neighborhood.

As he leaves home to walk to his grandmother's house, people greet him with wishes for a good day.  As he goes from place to place, person to person, he asks each one 

"What makes a good day for you?"

Their answers are as varied as their activities.

Mrs. Sanchez, a painter, wants a day with no rain.  Neighbors hope for a spot in the park to sit in the shade.  A bus driver simply wants passengers to use what all children know as the "magic" words, please and thank you.  A kite flyer, a gardener, a baker, the mail person, the worker at a newsstand, and a crossing guard each desire something directly related to their daily endeavors.

The response from his grandmother to his question is something that only takes seconds, but the effect lasts all day. As Daniel and his grandmother walk back to his house in the afternoon, he observes each person he spoke with earlier.  One is humming, some are smiling, one is petting a dog, and another is whistling.

When he approaches his mother and she asks him about his day, he gives her a positive reply.  His reasons are a cheerful litany of all he heard and saw.  Some final words from his mother elevate the day from goodness to superb.

As in her first book about this boy, Daniel Finds a Poem, author Micha Archer depicts his childlike wonder with excellent results.  Through his curiosity we become acquainted with the people in his immediate community.  We come to understand the ultimate thing they value for a moment or a collection of moments.  Some of their answers are for that day.  Most of their answers are for every day.

Through her use of repetition and short, deliberate sentences Micha Archer gives a rhythm to her narrative and creates the heartbeat of Daniel's world.  The use of dialogue allows us to walk as Daniel's shadow, hearing what he hears and seeing what he sees.  Here are two connected sentences.

The newsstand seller tells him,
"Busy sidewalks and friendly faces."

"Everybody home safe,"
says the crossing guard. 

Rendered in oil and collage using tissue paper all the illustrations by Micha Archer are a vibrant, delicate blend of bold and subtle color across the spectrum.  Seeing the title text, we know a combination of elements will compromise a good day for Daniel as he happily runs with the kite.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of purple, a small portion of an interior image shows Daniel speaking with the gardener.  They are within the loose confines of an oval but one of the trees, in full pink-and-white bloom extends above the border.  Text with this pictures asks us to join Daniel on his walk.

On the book case, a double-page picture gives us a bird's-eye view of the bakery on the left, the expanse of the park, left to right, and the bus stopped along the top on the left.  In the upper right-hand corner, the newsstand seller is speaking with a customer.  Readers will be fascinated by all the people and what they are doing in this scene.  Will they find some of the neighbors who chatted with Daniel?  Will they find Daniel?

A rusty red covers the opening and closing endpapers.  It frames the window Daniel looks out on the title page.  This color is also featured in the railing on the steps leading down from Daniel's front door on the first page, to the right of the verso page.  A blossoming tree on the left crosses the gutter to act as an umbrella over Daniel's mother, younger sibling and Daniel as they wave to neighbors.

On each of the double-page pictures and full-page visuals which follow, meticulous care is given to the point of view and color choices.  We see people from some of the images tucked into other illustrations giving a continuous flow to the entire narrative.  Even in the amidst of people busy with their days, a calm extends from the images to readers.  It depicts pure bliss in the simplest of actions.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Daniel is striding down the sidewalk in front of his grandmother as they walk back to his house.  Daniel in his white t-shirt, blue overalls and red tennis shoes presents a contrast to his grandmother's gorgeous dark blue print dress, dark boots and brightly patterned, red and white shoulder bag. Behind them are layers of shrubs in shades of green, one of them blooming.  A pale turquoise fence frames in the garden on the right as the gardener works.  She is glancing at a tree covered in flowers, listening to the bees at work.  In each corner of the background landscape on this blue-sky day, you can see city skyscrapers.

Oh, for every neighborhood to have a boy like this boy to ask questions which remind us to focus on the little, but important things.  Not one of the people spoke of anything costly a single cent.  In Daniel's Good Day written and illustrated by Micha Archer, we are reminded of how much each day offers us if we look for its goodness.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Micha Archer and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Micha Archer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  At author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast you can see several interior images.

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