Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 19, 2022

In That Moment

Some people believe the words content, happy, and joy are interchangeable.  To me they represent different degrees of a similar feeling.  Content symbolizes a foundation, a steadfast state of calm and acceptance.  When happiness enters contentment, intermittent skipping is added to an abiding walk.  Joy is when the walking and skipping stop and twirling commences.  Joy is a surge of uncontrollable emotion.  It comes in a moment of awareness.

The intensity of joy can leave you gasping, laughing, and storing those seconds or minutes deep in your heart.  Joy does not fade but multiplies if freely given.  When you read This Joy! (Abrams Books For Young Readers, October 4, 2022) written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes, your soul will fill with the pure bliss found within its pages.  


The girl freely admits her arms aren't big enough to wrap them around the world.  She is grateful for all the green and blue she sees and experiences in our world.  She wants the world to know how very happy it makes her.

Even standing on her tiptoes, she can't reach to the top of trees or touch the clouds, but we know she wants to do this.  On the sandy shore she understands she can't walk on all the grains of sand or splash in every wave, but we know she wants to do this.  If she could, she would send her joy to all the people in the world even though she can't count all of them.

She tries to arrange letters into a word to express this intense affection and appreciation, but she can't find the right one.  She continues to search for the correct conveyance.  Is it a mark or melody to be made?

Should she look around her in the outdoors? Is it a dance?  What exactly defines how she feels?  She finally recognizes what we all should recognize each day.  And this understanding . . . is joy!

Whatever you may be feeling prior to reading the words of Shelley Johannes in this title, it is guaranteed you will be changed for the better when the final sentence and the last word are read.  Each carefully chosen word and the phrases made from those words ask us to look around and embrace what we see with positivity and thankfulness.  Through the cadence fashioned by this child and her declarations, we come to accept or remember what each day is.  Here is a passage.





How can you not smile, giggle, or maybe spin around when you look at the front, right side, of the open dust jacket?  Look at that child.  Look at her mouth open with laughter, her arms outstretched and ready to be received by the loving arms of her mother.  The rays radiating from her body signify the glow she emits with her enthusiasm.  The text, the child, and the waiting arms of her mother are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, the little girl is doing a somersault down a grassy hill.  Her back is to us as she rolls.  Above her the words read:


On the book case, on either side of the spine, an interior image is enlarged.  The little girl is singing with four of her friends on a grassy knoll.  Their open mouths, arms and legs spread wide, and eyes closed all shout out loud their utter joy.  A dog is at the end of the row of them, head raised and howling.  

The opening and closing endpapers are bright red.  On the title, verso, and dedication pages is a double-page visual.  The child sits on her mother's shoulders on the right side of the picture.  A brisk breeze blows some of the mother's hair across the gutter.  Their backs are to us as they look at the grass and water spreading in front and on either side of them.  Water birds pepper the sky.

These illustrations rendered

with pencils, pastels, crayons, and markers---and a little bit of Photoshop

by Shelley Johannes are in full color and highly animated.  Often a crisp white background will highlight a close-up of the little girl.  There are double-page pictures, full-page pictures, and several smaller illustrations on a single page.  The perspectives will have you gasping at their perceptions of this child's exuberance.  We might see her swinging in a tire swing, at an angle, with clouds above her.  Or across two pages, we see just a small portion of her feet and toes resting on the sand as waves splash over them.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is a close-up of the refrigerator (pale green) in their home.  On the bottom, the little girl's head is tilted as she arranges brightly-hued magnetic letters on the refrigerator door.  Both of her hands are visible.  Above her she has already spelled


as she tries to find the right word for how she feels.

As an educator, there are some days when you are bone-tired at the close of the day.  Regardless of this and regardless of how you may have felt at the beginning of the day, this educator (me) always left uplifted.  This is the gift of children.  The little girl in This Joy! written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes not only depicts this, but also portrays what each day truly is for everyone.  I highly recommend this title for all your collections.  You can never have too much joy or gratitude.

To learn more about Shelley Johannes and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Shelley Johannes has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  This title is highlighted at John Schu's Watch. Connect. Read. with an interview with Shelley Johannes.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.

No comments:

Post a Comment