Two mornings ago, a new full-time neighbor called out to me asking how long everyone leaves up their holiday lights. My reply was, "It varies." Due to the unpredictability of the northern winters, some people leave their lights up all year, only lighting them in December. For myself, I will leave all of them up and on for the twelve days of Christmas. (On Christmas Eve, I spread luminaries across more than one hundred feet along the bottom of my hill. Surprisingly enough, the candles stayed lit for six hours.) The large pine on my hilltop will keep its lights lit for six hours during darkness until we have conquered COVID-19. I also told this neighbor I ordered candles to put in all my windows all year long.
Putting lights up around windows, draped on tree branches inside my home, and outside my home on bushes and trees reminds me to use my light and to be the light someone might need. When people see the lights on display, I want them to believe in the hope the light represents. I want them to believe people care about them. Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 27, 2020) written and illustrated by Apryl Stott is an enchanting debut. It is about being brave enough to be yourself.
Coco and Bear were friends from almost the first time they met.
They were very different: Bear was big, Coco was small.
Bear was shy. Coco was brave.
Despite these differences, the friends were exactly alike in one important characteristic. They had compassionate hearts. During a conversation, Bear expressed his wish for the other animals to see him as Coco did.
His sadness brought to mind a saying Coco's grandmother always said. There and then the duo decided it was time to let the animals know how kind Bear was. It was important to
bring some light.
Their dilemma was to how to do these two things.
Cookie baking and lantern making followed. The companions set off to visit the other animals with hope in their hearts. Badger, Rabbit, Hedgehog, and Skunk did not receive them well. There were complaints. There was grumbling. The trek home was slow and cold.
Suddenly, they heard a cry for help. Coco nearly got stuck in waist deep snow, climbing on Bear's back to safety. Another creature, nearly buried in snow, seeks security on Bear's back. When Bear and his two passengers reach the other animals, animals looking for a lost child, Bear's true self shines like a lantern's glow except for one more thing. Life, like Bear, is full of wonderful surprises if we trust Coco's grandmother's words of wisdom.
If you take two words from the title, kindness and light, readers will find they flow freely like a current through the narrative written by Apryl Stott. During the conversations between Coco and Bear their revealed personalities enrich our experience. We feel an immediate connection to them because of their shared understandings and affection. This connection increases when they strive to make Coco's grandmother's saying a reality and bring about Bear's heart's deepest desire. Through the word choices and use of language by Apryl Stott, we learn along with Coco, Bear, and the other animals of the forest. Here is a passage.
"They say that I must be mean,
'cause I'm so big. And some of
them are afraid of me."
"Noodle strudel," said Coco
"Yeah," said Bear, sniffing.
Coco gave Bear a big, tight hug. Because that's what made
her feel better whenever she was sad.
I don't know about you, but when I look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case and see Coco and Bear walking in the woods together on a snowy evening, I want to be walking with them. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this caring companionship? The color palette here with the luminous overtones in pink and purple radiate kindness. The title text is raised and embossed in foil. Coco and Bear are varnished.
To the left, on the back, on the other side of the spine the scene continues. The end of the log is jagged from its fall and open. Pine trees coated in snow are mixed with deciduous trunks and branches bare of leaves. Snow falls, blanketing the forest floor.
On the opening and closing endpapers readers are treated to exquisite, intricate line drawings. On the left and right of each page, at the beginning and at the end, are large circular depictions in the center of each page. Each one of these pictures are different. They represent the efforts of Coco and Bear, before and after the rescue. Around these four drawings the partial circles, and other decorative framings remain the same on the opening and closing endpapers. Within these are forest creatures and other representative symbols.
With a page turn, a double-page picture of Bear and Coco walking in the forest greets readers. Here the verso, dedication, and title pages are placed. The snow is just starting to fall.
These illustrations by Apryl Stott
were rendered in watercolor and digital ink.
She presents full-page images, edge to edge, circular illustrations, framed in twigs or leaves, and double-page visuals. The type of flora framing the circular pictures changes each time. It's as if we've stepped into the forest world, fascinated by what is unfolding. There are two double-page wordless, wondrous illustrations. The facial expressions on all the characters will endear them to you.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture. It is as if we are a bird, hovering in place over Bear and Coco. Along the bottom portion of the image, we see an array of snow-coated pine trees. From above they look like opened flowers. Winding above them in the snow is a path, prints showing where Bear and Coco have walked. There are fewer pine trees above them. The duo is now in the center on the right. On the left side, they abandoned their sled laden with lanterns and wrapped plates of cookies. (Foreshadowing)
This book is beautiful to share any day, any time of year. How wonderful though to begin the New Year by reading this delightful debut, Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light written and illustrated by Apryl Stott, with one or many readers. It will promote the best kind of discussions. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections. (Sending a special message of gratitude to my friend John Schumacher for gifting me this book.)
To learn more about Apryl Stott and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Apryl has numerous suggestions for activities to use with this book. Apryl Stott has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. At the publisher's website you can view interior images and the full dust jacket.