Quote of the Month

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

Where To Start? Look In Your Heart.

There are days so exquisite, your soul feels like it might burst with happiness.  The air is diamond sharp. Even though the temperature is in the mid-fifties; you have your windows open to savor the clarity of the gentle breeze.  Small clouds, tiny puffs, roam across a startling blue expanse of sky.  The sun, at a different angle now, calls forth in warmth the blossoms on autumn flowers. 

Today is one of those days.  You wish, not for the first time, you could bottle it up to enjoy at a future date.   With gratitude, there are books, mirroring these magical days, for us to hold in our hands and read whenever we desire.  One such book is You Are A Beautiful Beginning (Roaring Brook Press, August 25, 2020) written by Nina Laden with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley.  In this marvelous, mindful guide to life, profound perspectives lead the way to truth and wonder.  

It is not the number of pages.

It is the story in the book.

For many of us it is not the distance we walk from one point to another, but the first move we make.  Do we focus on all the subsequent steps, or look at the world around us?  Lifting our voices in song, whether there are words, or not, is an uplifting style of music all our own.  

Sometimes we try hard for perfection without realizing the special skill behind every attempt.  One good friend, the one who is there despite all obstacles, is more valuable than numerous acquaintances.  It is good to remember not how many things we have, but how many things we are willing to give to others.

Do we try to outshine others?  Do we pride ourselves on being a contributing member of a group?  Do we construct roadblocks?  Do we make new paths?

In each of these comparative thoughts, fourteen altogether, we are asked to assess our thinking.  We are shown how to see the world through the eyes of "we" instead of "me."  We walk side-by-side with words and images toward being exactly who we are, a child of the universe, a spectacular piece in the fantastic whole.

Each of the pair of sentences penned by Nina Laden are a thoughtful study of personal growth.  The final word in the second and fourth statements in two pairs rhyme.  This cadence of rhyming and repetitive words is a gentle invitation for reader participation.  It's as if Nina Laden has held out her hand to readers, willing to walk with us as we converse and ponder the paths we choose.  Here is another passage.

It is not being afraid of darkness.

It is looking for places that glow.

The three children shown walking across the log bridge, on the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, meet each other one by one as their days begin and they start to explore their outside world.  The animated elements from nature and the tiny fantastical beings join them as their adventure grows, image by image.  To the left, on the back, is a pastoral scene, looking down a hill toward the tiny community where the children reside.  The final four sentences from the book are placed in the center of the picture.

A plaid pattern of diamonds in two tones of lighter rust cover the opening and closing endpapers.  Wildflowers, mushrooms, small grassy mounds, a beetle, and a snail are items included in the visual framing the lower portion of the text on the title page.  Prior to the book's closing endpapers is a charming two-page picture of the initial girl, asleep in her bed, on the left, holding the book she was first reading.  From the book is a flowing stream of experienced and possible adventures and dreams, stretching from the left to the right edge.  Under the right portion of the stream is the dedication and publication information.

The illustrations rendered by Kelsey Garrity-Riley using

gouache, ink, and colored pencils, with a little bit of digital editing

alternate between large oval images, double-page pictures, and single-page visuals, edge to edge.  With her artwork, Kelsey Garrity-Riley forms a companion story, taking the words of Nina Laden and applying them to the unfolding pictorial tale.  To see this happening as you read the words is quite enchanting.

Readers will stop at each page turn to study all the intricate details.  They will be thrilled to see a beetle wearing a bowler hat, and carrying a curved cane watching the first little girl leave her home.  They will gasp in wonder at the dandelion fluff turned into ballerinas floating on the wind.  They will exclaim at the fairy folk who emerge from their homes to help the children.  They will sigh as the day progresses into evening and everyone is together sheltered by the efforts of their day.  

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the words

It is singing a song in your heart.

This full-page illustration is a close-up view of a collage of yellow flowers open and budding on a backdrop of leaves in green and blue hues.  Two brown-shaded birds fly into the scene, one from the lower, right-hand corner, and the other down from the top, left-hand side.  In the center of the page in the center of an open yellow flower is the boy we see on the jacket and cover.  His eyes are closed, and his arms are spread wide, ready for an embrace.  His face is raised, and his mouth is open in song.  Three beetles are near him playing instruments.  This is pure bliss.

This book, You Are A Beautiful Beginning written by Nina Laden with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, is one to keep close to you.  Each pair of phrases welcomes us to think how we will approach moments in our days and the directions we wish our lives to follow.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Nina Laden and Kelsey Garrity-Riley and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Nina Laden has accounts on Facebook, and Instagram.  Kelsey Garrity-Riley has an account on Instagram.  (You can see pictures from this book there.)  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.

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