BookPage Children's Top Pick, March 2016
The warm yellow endpapers of this picture book bring to mind the sun, a symbol of a new day filled with new inspirations. That’s the subject of Philip C. Stead’s new book, Ideas Are All Around, but it’s also so much more.
Dry on story ideas, Stead goes for a walk with his dog. The two see a shy turtle, listen to birds and visit Barbara, who owns a house the author once lived in upstairs. Stead has coffee with Barbara, and they discuss the fact that 10,000 years ago, the spot where they now sit was the bottom of a lake. I can imagine children talking back enthusiastically to this book: There are ideas for stories everywhere you look! This is, of course, the author’s point.
But there’s more. This is also a book that embraces imperfections: Stead tells readers he once spilled paint at Barbara’s house and left “a big blue blob on the sidewalk.” Barbara rejoiced in the blob and saw in it the essence of a blue horse. Stead also writes about his beloved typewriter, which he bought from a man who repairs broken things. On his walk, Stead sees a line of people waiting for the soup kitchen to open, one with a cane and one in a wheelchair. Stead and his dog follow the railroad tracks—“You should never walk on train tracks . . . but we do it anyway”—because that can lead to adventure. In the book’s opening spread, Stead even sees a sunflower, noting it was only one of many seeds that grew. “Planting a seed is always a risk,” he writes. One for sorrow, two for joy.
The book includes Polaroid photos (be sure to remove the dustjacket) and text from the author’s typewriter. The mixed-media, collaged illustrations are spare and evocative. It’s a book that finds joy—and, yes, ideas—in this messy, beautiful world.
The year is young. I can already tell you this is one of its best books.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.