Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

For The Children

In the first meeting with my first principal in my first school, something he said has stayed with me for more than four decades.  This was the first year for this principal in this building. He looked at an over-abundance of new staff seated around the conference table.  The first thing he said to us was "without the children, we would not need you."  He wanted us to know the students came first.  

For me, not only did students come first, but I tried to look at them and say, "What if this was my child?"  I wanted them to have every advantage, every opportunity, and every respect I had to offer.  This is why certain books move me deeply.  With every reading of All Because You Matter (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., October 6, 2020) written by Tami Charles with illustrations by Bryan Collier, I find tears welling in my eyes.  Every single child deserves to be enveloped with the love and positivity pouring from the pages of this book.

They say that matter
is all things
that make up the universe:
         space . . .

If that's the case,
then you, dear child, matter.

The voice continues to tell the child how in a time before they were a hope, people were shaping a world to welcome this child.  In this world they used their strength, physical and mental, to benefit those who were not yet born.  Everything they did was for the future.

On the evening of the birth of this child stars signaled the worth of this birth and every moment that was to follow.  Moments were chronicled, moments like first steps, first words, and the opening of a first book.  The combination of all elements in this book were to lift him up.  But . . .

There will not always be affirmation in this world.  Your name, the way you dress, how you complete your schoolwork, and how you and others like you are viewed will have you questioning your value.  You will ponder.  You will doubt.

Then this precious child is reminded about those from whom he came.  He is reminded about the depth of their accomplishments and character.  He is reminded of the night he was born and how the stars shone.  He is reminded that since the beginning of the beginning he and a multitude of others before and after him have always mattered.

Every carefully chosen word of author Tami Charles works toward a loving whole.  She desires readers of this book to know they are important regardless of anything else they may see, hear, or read.  She, sentence by sentence, fashions a verbal representation of this truth.  By repeating specific words from the beginning of her narrative on the final pages she brings us full circle.  Here is a passage.

The words and pictures
coming together like
sweet jam on toast,
musica blasting through barrios,
sun in blue sky . . .
all because you matter.

How could you not love the child featured on the front of the open dust jacket?  Look at that beautiful face, so full of promise.  A collage of petals frame either side of him.  Illustrator Bryan Collier states in a note he begins with a single petal symbolizing a beginning and layers these to create blossoms.  You can see faces in some of them.  These depict those who have always believed you matter.

The collage of petals continues to the left of the spine, on the back of the dust jacket.  It makes a valley in the center of the page.  Across the starry sky, a single star streaks from left to right. 

On the book case an interior image is expanded.  It conveys a time when the child speculates on whether he will ever have value.  He thinks this as his Pop Pop prays for those children gone:


On the opening and closing endpapers the collage of petals in various hues of blue form a canvas.  They are replete with stars.  On the first a single star speeds from left to right on the right side.  On the second a moon hangs on the left side, a sliver beginning to show. Petals in a wallpaper pattern with blues and purple form a background for the verso and title pages.  

Each illustration

created with collage and Winsor & Newton watercolor paint on 300lb. Arches watercolor paper 

usually spanning two pages, with a portion left for a column for text, is a glorious representation and enhancement of the text.  The color palette is luminous.  The faces on the people are exquisite.  You expect them to walk off the pages.  Each element in these pictures is a meticulously placed piece.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is toward the beginning of the book.  The picture covers the entire left side, crosses the gutter and fills the left side of the right half.  The text appears on the wallpaper-textured right side.  The illustration features an African tribal chieftain with his left arm raised, fist clenched.  His face reflects calm, purpose, and strength.  Fanning to the left, above, and right of him are layers of petals, many of them have their tips folded down.  There are many patterns, colors, and people on them.  On the far left is a golden sky, hills, and pyramids.  On the right is the starry sky with the silver of moon.  

Thinking about this book, you cannot imagine a better pairing than this author and illustrator.  For All Because You Matter written by Tami Charles with artwork by Bryan Collier, each one of them painstakingly added words and brush strokes and collage to make this stunning book for children, their parents and other adults who hold them in great affection.  At the close of the book both Tami Charles and Bryan Collier include notes for readers.  This book comes with my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.  (I am adding my accolades to many others, professional and personal.)

To learn more about Tami Charles and Bryan Collier and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective web sites.  Tami Charles has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and YouTube.  Bryan Collier has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images and read the notes found at the end of the book.  On the Scholastic blog there is more from Tami Charles you might enjoy.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read., Tami Charles and Bryan Collier talk about this book.  This book and Tami Charles are featured on The Children's Book Podcast with teacher librarian Matthew Winner.  At We Need Diverse Books the book trailer is premiered.  Tami Charles and Bryan Collier are also guests at Politics and Prose Bookstore.

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