STARRED REVIEW
June 27, 2017

A spectrum from great to small

By Keith Richards
Review by

In Life, Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant brings readers a meditation on nature and the course of a life, one that begins tiny and blooms with an appreciation for the world at large.

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In Life, Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant brings readers a meditation on nature and the course of a life, one that begins tiny and blooms with an appreciation for the world at large.

“Life begins small,” the book opens, and then it grows. Both text and art introduce a baby elephant and its parent, exploring their world. There is a shift when Rylant suggests that any animal on earth could tell you what it loves about life, and illustrator Brendan Wenzel’s spread here is a delight. A group of animals from the wild looks directly at readers, as the focus pivots to creatures other than the elephants.

Midway through the book, Rylant transfers a bit of wisdom, looking to wild creatures as models of intuition, as beings on the planet who know that everything changes and there is always something to love and protect. Wild geese, after all, always know how to find their way back home, and Rylant suggests human readers consider the same. There may occasionally be a dark “stretch of wilderness,” but wild animals know best that each new day is still worth it just to see “what might happen” next. Those looking for grad gifts that are an alternative to Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! would do well to consider Life.

In primarily earth-toned, full-bleed spreads, Wenzel varies his palette to match Rylant’s shifting, contemplative moods. The “life is not always easy” spread is stirring, showing a bright blue bird struggling in a vast, swirling storm. The landscapes, above and under water, are sweeping, bristling with movement and energy.

This one is full of life.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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Life

Life

By Keith Richards
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316034388

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