All manner of people come and go in our lives daily. Some are there for the briefest of moments. Others are there for decades. They bring us laughter and sadness. They challenge us and support us. Some dislike us for no understandable reasons. Others, most if we are fortunate, shower us with warmth and love.
We know at an early age; everything is better together. The positive is multiplied and the negative is halved. If it were possible to hold sheer happiness in our hands whenever we desire, then More Than Sunny (Abrams Books for Young Readers, May 11, 2021) written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes is exactly the title necessary for this accomplishment. This debut picture book by a beloved author illustrator (Beatrice Zinker: Upside Down Thinker) is the quintessential representation of heightened joy through shared experiences.
An older sister and the family canine companion are eager to start their day. They wake up a younger brother, pulling him outside. The day is sunny, early and full of birdsong. As they move through their world, other descriptors follow them and the word sunny.
At the pond, it is muddy, and a family of ducks follows them. As the day and season warms, the sister and dog want to explore some more. It is humid. What's with all the bugs?! They are thankful for a gentle breeze and each new discovery at the pond, in the meadow, and off the dock.
When the rains come, all three still go outside, enjoying those creatures who love the rain the most. Back home, their wetness is absorbed by a loving parent. Spring and summer are wonderful memories as autumn leaves pile on the ground spiraling up and down in the winds. Geese formations point to the south against a darkening sky.
Heavy snowflakes fall on two extended tongues. Pleading leads to a walk in the snow. Silence reveals gentle wonders. Mom, children, and their dog play until late in the day when daddy arrives. More fun ensues. Four angels leave an impression in the snow. Now it is time to go. Stories and snuggles and
In a reversal, one final glowing glory is displayed.
A knock at a door always holds an element of surprise and anticipation until we realize who is there. This is a wonderful way to lead readers into the merriment of this story. Author Shelley Johannes skillfully uses punctuation, short phrases, and rhyming to supply readers with the best each season can offer. Here are two paired passages.
it's MUGGY . . .
AND BUZZY . . .
On the front and the back, right and left, of the open dust jacket, we meet the siblings and their dog as they embrace the day. You can see in both of the images; the brother is not initially as excited as his sister. She is the personification of sunshine; her arms shooting up and out like rays. On the front the brother, dog, sister, and text are varnished.
To the left, on the back, is one of the interior illustrations. The brother, still wearing his pajamas and his yellow boots, carries his toy stuffed turtle, as his sister, holding his hand, runs out the door of their house. Their dog leads them off the steps and outside into the yard. The red door of their house contrasts with the pale blue of the early morning sky.
On the book case a fabulous double-page picture is presented on either side of the spine. To the left is a close-up of the red door to their home. The brother and sister are leaning out the opening of the door, heads back and tongues stretched to capture the first snowflakes of winter.
These illustrations rendered
with pencil and mixed media on tracing paper and finished digitally
by artist Shelley Johannes are brimming with exuberance and pure delight. Their size and perspective are altered to accentuate the pacing. Every page turn yields more energy.
The details in the clothing, facial features, body postures and the settings welcome us into each visual. The sister is so thrilled she does not have her shoes tied. In the summer, the toys on the brother's rug in his bedroom reappear in real life. Do you see the ladybugs, butterflies, and caterpillar? On the stormy day, a fort is made for the dog from books and a checkerboard.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages. It shows the passage of time. On the left side, a dock ends on the left. On the right side, a dock ends on the right. This dock is positioned near the center of the two pages. Beneath the dock is green-blue water of a pond or lake. Above the dock is a blue sky filled with wispy clouds. On the left, the siblings wearing yellow life vests are leaning over the dock watching the water and their fishing lines which vanish under the surface. On the right, their poles with the lines reeled in rest on the dock. Now, sister and brother are on their backs, cloud gazing. In both scenes the sister is talking.
When you read More Than Sunny written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes, you will feel your spirit lighten. Hopefully for many readers, the activities of the sister and brother will be a reminder of shared exhilaration or future marvels to relish. I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections. It is one to gift often.
To learn more about Shelley Johannes and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. The book trailer can be viewed here, also. Shelley Johannes has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The cover reveal is hosted with an interview by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, at his site, Watch. Connect. Read. Shelley Johannes is featured at author illustrator Jarrett Lerner's site. Travis Jonker, teacher librarian extraordinaire, chats with Shelley Johannes on his site 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal. At the publisher's website there are some downloadable extra resources. There is also a video there for you to enjoy at the publisher's website.