There was immense uncertainty. There was little knowledge. There was too much knowledge. This was not at the local level, the state level, or at the national level. This was worldwide. It consumed every aspect of our lives.
It has been 110 days since receipt of the second dose of the vaccine to combat COVID-19. Prior to that time, 395 days were spent sheltering in place with my constant canine companion. Without the dedication of essential workers, it would have been far more difficult. Mail, packages (usually with books), and food were delivered. Conversations with those marvelous people were conducted through the window glass. Deep appreciation compelled the leaving of notes and gift cards for these wonderful human beings. Keeping The City Going (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 27, 2021) written and illustrated by Brian Floca is a melodic, visual expression of gratitude. It echoes eloquently what many feel and believe.
We are here at home now,
watching the world through our windows,
and wondering what will happen next.
The world beyond those windows is not as it has been. It is nearly silent, businesses are closed, and neighbors are inside. There are still some people outside moving in all directions. They are the ones serving the city and its inhabitants. They are the ones needed to survive this unfamiliar happening.
They bring food from restaurants to our doorsteps. They bring food to our markets, making sure the shelves are rarely empty. There are people operating the vehicles providing transportation to those who work in those restaurants and markets. Taxis still race from place to place.
Sanitation workers tirelessly strive to keep the city clean. Postal workers deliver mail. Other services leave packages we can hardly wait to open.
Utilities we rely on 24/7, internet, electricity, gas, and water, continue because these essential workers are on the job. Firefighters, police officers, and EMTs work above and beyond committed in honoring their obligations. All members of hospital staffs push themselves to limits they are unaware they have. Though we are seeing this city through a window, we witness the steady continuation of vital activities. Each evening we honor them, at seven o'clock. Listen.
With that first sentence, author Brian Floca portrays a moment felt by many people in cities (in all communities) around the world. With each subsequent thought he builds on the actions of all those not at home looking out at the world. He heralds their daily accomplishments needed by us. He does this by speaking plainly, but also poetically with veracity. Here is a passage.
They're delivering letters and packages---
boxes full of things people need
but can't go out to buy.
And maybe . . .
just maybe, they're brining
that one thing we ordered
that we don't really need . . .
If someone were to look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case for this title, their first thought might be about the masks people are wearing. This gives this book a timely quality for readers now, but also a timeless trait for readers in the future. Why are people wearing masks? Each of those vehicles and the people on and in them have a particular purpose necessary to this narrative. The fine lines, the attention to detail, the realistic but soft colors, are identifying qualities of Brian Floca's artwork throughout this book, throughout many of his books.
To the left, on the back, amid a white canvas is a single, loosely framed circular image. It is a close-up of a window placed in a block building. A tree branch hangs over the left corner. Taped to the window, on the inside, is a piece of paper. On the paper a rainbow has been drawn. This symbolizes hope. This action spread around the world.
A rich, earthy dark tan covers the opening and closing endpapers. Opposite the verso and dedication (In memory of Richard Jackson, editor and friend) page, a panoramic view of New York City is featured. These illustrations rendered in
watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache
are placed surrounded by white space, grouped together on a single page to emphasize a point, span a single page, edge to edge, or across two pages, edge to edge.
The images are replete with action in contrast to those sheltering inside, peering out their windows. All the elements in each picture, large or small, ask us to pause. They encourage us to remember the people who, whether we are in a lockdown or free to go about our daily lives, keep our communities working properly.
One of my many, many favorite images is toward the end of the book. It highlights an overview of two street corners, one street running along the bottom of the page and the other going away from us in the central area. Buildings line this street on both sides. It is the same scene shown earlier in the day. Now a golden hue covers the buildings as the sun moves lower in the sky. The street is still nearly quiet except for the portion of an ambulance driving off the left side. There is comfort in this picture, knowing there are those caring for us.
This book, Keeping The City Going written and illustrated by Brian Floca, is a gift. It is a gift to all those who worked day in and day out to maintain services for everyone. It is a gift to all readers, reminding us to never forget those who forged paths for creating easier lives for us amid one of the most challenging times in the last one hundred years. I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.
To discover more about Brian Floca and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Brian Floca has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The cover reveal is hosted at Publishers Weekly. This title is showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. You will enjoy the conversation between her and Brian along with a lot of artwork. At the publisher's website you can view the entire jacket and case as well as interior pictures.