We're gearing up for a crazy fall around our house. School has begun for me, so I'm back juggling classes along with work and family responsibilities. As it's my second-to-last semester, I'm also taking comps for my degree, so that will knock out my free time for an approximately three-week period. And my husband recently started a business, so he's busy getting that up and running along with all the rest of his other tasks. Plus then there's Sprout, always busy but even more so now that he's got a social life of his own -- there's always a playdate, birthday party or swim lesson at least one of our weekend days.
With all that's going on, it seemed like we might just need a bit of a breather to gear ourselves up for things. So we scheduled a little getaway to the San Juan Islands, a few days to play on the beach, read, explore, sleep in and make s'mores. (Actually Sprout's one-and-only request for this vacation is that he wants to eat ice cream. Done and done, little man.)
And since we've been talking about this getaway for a while, it seemed like the perfect time to crack out one of my favorite recent picture books to share with Sprout. All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon is a heady dream of a book that celebrates life and interconnectedness of people and place. It came to mind for me because I've always felt sure that Scanlon and illustrator Marla Frazee set the book on an island - it has that meandering pace that reminds me of vacation and leisurely time with family and friends.
The book starts out with a narrow focus - two curly-headed kiddos digging and building on the shore -- and gradually expands outward, encompassing multiple groups, couples and singles and families, who all encounter the glorious day together and yet separately. Each spread gives us a different perspective on the day, from the older gentleman feeding the birds to the family in a rowboat to the lady walking her dog, all of whom are converged on the same scene but from different angles. Nature is a character here too, as through Frazee's jaw-droppingly gorgeous illustrations we can feel the wind sweeping the sky, blowing up a sudden summer downpour. And then, as night falls on this idyllic day, we feel the closeness of the characters coming together in one terrific gathering, playing music, talking and laughing. Really, you just want to pull up a chair in this scene and join the gaiety.
What makes All the World so unique, and to my mind so incredibly lovely, is the way Scanlon's text and Frazee's illustrations are paired. A strict reading of the text provides the spirit of what happens, in terms of a simple, moving poemic jewel. And Frazee's drawings on their own are terrific fun to look at (Sprout likes to pick out familiar elements in every scene, looking for the daddy who has cocoa skin, like him, and the mama whose skin is pink, like mine). But it is in the intersection of these elements that the book really comes alive, and becomes something that transcends the genre. It is an affirmation, a nod to the elemental truth that all parts of our world, however small, are intertwined in myriad ways. All the World is an amazing book for pre-readers to look at in particular, because so much of the story is carried in visual form. And, too, this is a book for everyone, a thoughtful consideration of the way we are connected to one another and to the world we all share.
All the World was a Caldecott Honor title in 2010, and it's not much of a stretch to see why. It seems to me that this is the kind of book that will endure for a long time to come, not just because of its award status, but also because it speaks to universal themes. And even more than that, it's a true joy to read and to share with a child, the finishing touch to a day's activities that will leave little ones with plenty of fodder for joyous dreaming.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, published by Simon & Schuster
Sample: "Rock, stone, pebble, sand / Boy, shoulder, arm, hand / A moat to dig, a shell to keep / All the world is wide and deep"
Bonus: Kirkus Reviews interviews author Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrator Marla Frazee