We collect. We gather. We save. What an individual chooses to collect, gather or save depends on their needs and wants. Some items are necessary for life; others are reminders of moments in that life. Some things are tangible, and others are not. Those we hold in our minds.
We may find some things harder to collect, gather or save but this is what makes them all the more cherished by us. In A Jar (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, January 21, 2020) written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero is a book which opens our hearts to possibilities. It shows us how nothing can break the bond of friendship formed with love.
Llewellyn was a collector.
He collected things in jars.
Inside his jars were things representing all the wonder he witnessed around those objects. If you looked inside his jars, you would see how observant Llewellyn was. He gathered things he noticed as he wandered out in the world. (He collected heart-shaped stones, just like me. I already love this little guy.)
One evening something out of the ordinary happened. The sky was an exquisite color of red and Llewellyn wanted to save it. When he was at the edge of the water, he met Evelyn. Llewellyn put some of that sunset glimmer in a jar and presented it to Evelyn. You won't believe what the jar did all night long in Evelyn's bedroom.
Llewellyn and Evelyn became the best of friends, collectors of the marvelous things they saw, heard, tasted, smelled or felt. Nothing was impossible. During winter, spring and summer they filled jars with all the delights they shared; jars holding trips down ski hills, walks through a field of red tulips and summer shadows.
Jars of all shapes and sizes were placed on shelves lining the walls of Llewellyn's home. One day, though, this all stopped. Evelyn's family was moving.
On one of those nights after Evelyn was gone, when sleep did not come easily, Llewellyn saw something, a collectible something. He needed to share it with Evelyn. Later, miles and miles away from Llewellyn, Evelyn saw something, too, a collectible something. Friendship finds a way to keep love glowing and growing, spreading out.
When author Deborah Marcero speaks of Llewellyn and then, Evelyn, these are two children in which readers will immediately feel a kinship. They, with respect and no fanfare, appreciate everything around them. They notice things others might walk past.
Deborah Marcero draws us deeper into the story with her rich descriptions. We find ourselves astonished and willing to join Llewellyn and Evelyn in their mutual quest to collect those exquisite moments which sometimes only happen once. Here is a passage.
One night, the sunset painted the sky the color of
tart cherry syrup. Llewellyn ventured down to the
shore with as many jars as he could carry.
(I don't know about you, but I don't think I'll ever look at a sunset again without thinking of tart cherry syrup.)
Every element on the front of the dust jacket is like one part of an enchanting whole. The play of sunlight and shadow, the tall trees stretching past the top edge, the vast array of bluebells and Llewellyn and Evelyn, there together, with their jars is like the final piece in a perfect puzzle. You want to sigh, and you do.
To the left, on the back, is a canvas of a sunny yellow sky and slightly rolling hills of greens with a bit of blue and brown. The setting sun, a fiery orb, casts long shadows of a single tree, Llewellyn and Evelyn. A single sentence says:
FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC.
The book case background is a bright golden yellow. On the back, left, and on the right, front, are jars of all shapes and sizes, filled with a variety of items. On the left, Evelyn is kneeling in front of a jar as a turtle comes out with a snail on its shell. On the right, Llewellyn is reaching into an equally large jar. He is close to a butterfly inside with two others and a leafy branch. A cocoon hangs from the branch.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern of wind-blown leaves in hues of green shifting to yellow, orange and red as they move from left to right. On the back the color alterations are in reverse. Butterflies float across the title page and over the gutter to the verso page. They flutter on all sides of Llewellyn who stands on some grass and holds a jar.
in pencil, watercolor, ink, and digital media
the illustrations elevate a lovely narrative to excellence. Smaller images, more close-up of the characters, are placed within two-page pictures. Although what has been collected remains in a jar, the memory attached to it swirls around the endearing characters.
Sometimes three smaller visuals in a row will be used to highlight one or two words. They show a sequence of events. Two-page illustrations and single-page pictures extend page edge to page edge to create a dramatic effect. And sometimes jars, many jars filled with the beauty of a season, are all we see on a page. The delicate details, fine lines and color selections by Deborah Marcero are stunning.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is beneath the words:
the newness of spring . . .
The sky above our characters is a pale blue gray. Rolling hills of tulips in hues of red and pink cover two-thirds of the single page. The perspective goes from tulips that are almost the size of dots to much larger along the bottom of the page. About halfway up the page are Llewellyn and Evelyn. All we can see of them are their heads and upright ears and a tiny bit of the top of their clothing. This is utterly charming.
When you read this book, In A Jar written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, no matter if it's the first time or the tenth time, you have to remind yourself to breath. It's that striking in words and artwork. This is a book your readers and listeners will ask you to read again and again. I imagine a collection of jars filled with objects and memories will grow. I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Deborah Marcero, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Deborah Marcero maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the endpapers. Deborah Marcero is interviewed on the podcast Picturebooking.