Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Piecing Together Home

The resilience of children is clearly tested when they move from all that is familiar to them.  For many of them, the challenge is not in leaving a home, neighborhood, school, and friends.  They have been uprooted and replanted in an entirely different country.  They have to navigate through all that is new, finding a balance between what was and now is.

For these reasons, many new children in communities and schools are quiet.  They are observing.  They are trying to figure out their place in these circumstances.  The Color Collector (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2021) written by Nicholas Solis with illustrations by Renia Metallinou is a beautiful portrait of bravery.  One child has the courage to seek the truth.  Another child has the courage to share their truth.

She was new.
She was quiet.
I think she was lonely.

That was the day I met Violet.

It began with a hello.  It began with a smile.  Each day the boy walked on one side of the street.  Violet walked on the other side of the street.  They lived close to each other.

One day this changed.  Violet picked up a red piece of paper the wind blew to her.  The boy watched her place it in her backpack.  Violet saw him watching.  She lifted her hand in a greeting.

The boy saw her picking up all kinds of things in all kinds of colors.  Curiosity getting the better of him, the boy asked Violet what she did with those items.  She wanted him to follow her.  She took him to her home.  They entered her room.

What he saw was stunning!  She explained her creation in stories as he listened.  Her sadness was less.  Aloneness became togetherness.  And on his way home, the boy found . . .

The simple declarative sentences spoken in the voice of the boy give this story touching authenticity.  Though the writing of Nicholas Solis we are both bystanders and participants.  Day by day a kind of suspense is built, a mystery grows until dialogue is introduced.  We know something wonderful is going to happen.  We are not prepared for the spectacular reveal, but we are shown the generous spirits of children.  Here is a passage.

The day she picked something up.

The wind blew strong.
A red candy wrapper did somersaults.

It landed at her feet.  It hugged her shoe. 

The crisp white canvas on the open and matching dust jacket and book case is ideal for the depiction of a story focusing on color and its part in forming a friendship.  On the front we are introduced to the narrator and the new girl, Violet.  We sense her determination and his questioning.  The design choice to have the title text shift in colors is fabulous.

To the left, on the back, in black and white Violet is walking home from school.  The red wrapper floats by her.  She bends to pick it up and it vanishes inside her backpack.  

The opening and closing endpapers, the same, are a collage of collected bits of paper, trash, and natural objects.  On the title page, the boy and Violet are walking together framed by the text.  A red leaf swirls and loops top to bottom.

Each of the images is animated and richly detailed.  On the first double-page picture the only color is the purple ties holding Violet's pigtails in place.  Illustrator Renia Metallinou alternates between image sizes to follow the pacing of the story.  The first double-page visual is followed by a full-page picture and three vertical panels on a single page.

Gradually, as Violet picks up items, the colors of those are added to the illustrations.  Each subsequent picture is more colorful than the previous one.  After we are as astonished as the boy with what he sees in her bedroom, both children are in full color.  The final two double-page pictures are as warm and inviting as the newly formed companionship.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture.  The boy and Violet are standing in the open doorway to her bedroom.  The doorway fills most of the picture except for a portion of the door on the right.  We are close enough to them that all we see is the upper part of their bodies.  It is the expressions on their faces readers will remember.  One is of intense surprise and respect.  The other is of joy in one's accomplishment.  

This book, The Color Collector written by Nicholas Solis with illustrations by Renia Metallinou, is a wonderful symbol of the power of a single act of compassion.  A friendship is formed.  It also reminds us, we can never truly know someone until we understand their stories.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Nicholas Solis and Renia Metallinou and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Nicholas Solis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Renia Metallinou has accounts on Behance, Facebook, Instagram, and TumblrThis title is highlighted at Kathleen Temean Writing and Illustrating, Jena Benton Simply 7, Math Is Everywhere, and Write Away.

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