And I think that's one of the things that picture books give to us, is the ability to suit our mood absolutely. Of course all books do, but picture books, with their interdependence on both pictures and words to tell a story, give us mood right from the cover. Look at a Richard Scarry title, for instance, and you don't even have to know that his world is called Busytown - you've got hustle and bustle from the get go. Flip through a Jerry Pinkney book and you're in for nostalgia, classic timelessness. Slide a volume of Ian Falconer's off the shelf and you can be sure there's going to be humor, and not the cutesy kind, either, thank you very much.
With tonight's pick, Dav Pilkey's The Paperboy, readers definitely have a sense of the spirit of this book just from the cover image. The story follows a young African American boy on his newspaper route, starting out as the papers are dropped off at his house in the wee hours and continuing as the boy rises in the pre-dawn dark. He and his Corgi get dressed, head downstairs, and eat breakfast without waking the rest of the family, then fold the papers and set out to deliver them. "All the world is asleep except for the paperboy and his dog." Pilkey tells us. "And this is the time when they are the happiest."
The Paperboy is as richly developed in story as it is in its stirring, Caldecott-Honor illustrations. Pilkey uses a palette that's perfectly suited for the instrospective tone of the work, all purples and blues and emeralds until the brilliant sunburst of the dawn breaks the sky. The first time we read this together, when we closed the book Sprout sighed and said, "I like that one." And that's the kind of story this is -- one that makes you, dear reader, feel that all is as it should be, a rhythm of rightness that follows the paperboy's route.
What picture books suit your various moods? Are there some you return to at certain times, or when you just need something that's going to match your emotional state? For us there definitely are, and The Paperboy is without question one that's evocative, pitch-perfect at day's end.
The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey, published by Scholastic