A great nonfiction picture book is a work of art. Authors have to take enormous concepts and reduce them to just a few words that can be understood by a young child. Sometimes these concepts can barely be understood by adults. Here are two such small jewels, both of which brought me to tears.
Noah loves to visit his grandparents. He and Grandpa have a ritual every morning that involves lots of singing and walks with the dog. One day, Noah is stunned when Grandpa forgets their favorite things and doesn’t even seem to know him. Grandma steps in to explain, and Noah finds ways to create new memories with Grandpa.
As I described earlier in this blog, I met Arthur A. Levine at Book Expo America last May in Chicago at an author speed-dating luncheon. I had seen a picture and description of What a Beautiful Morning before, so as soon as he sat down, I knew that he was describing his own father and son in this Alzheimer’s story with delicate, autumn-hued watercolor illustrations by Katie Kath. My eyes filled with tears and I could not speak to him at all, because his tale so closely mirrored my father and my son about twenty years before. Not a medical explanation, but a journey of the heart that will speak directly to far too many families, perhaps yours.
When I read about Seven and a Half Tons of Steel, I was intrigued. I did not know that a steel beam pulled from the Twin Towers had been re-crafted as the bow of the battleship the USS New York, so when the book arrived at the library this week, I sat down to learn about this meaningful gift from the governor of New York to the U.S. Navy.
Author Janet Nolan begins with a short explanation of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, focusing on the sorrow of the people in our country. She then moves into the historical details of the beam being transported to a shipyard in Louisiana, where its construction was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and, finally, its sail back into the New York Harbor on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Although the first portion of the book is heart-wrenching, by the end, the author has brought the reader to a feeling of patriotic pride in the resilience of the American people.
The illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are double-page spreads of thick, saturated color that convey the strength of the message. Although the story is truthful, Gonzalez never pictures anything that is too violent or frightening, making the book appropriate for even the youngest audiences. Very highly recommended, especially as we move into the fifteenth anniversary of our national day of sorrow.
Disclaimer: I read library copies of both of these books. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.