Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood (F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell,and illustrated by Rafael López.

A little girl named Mira sits in her bedroom in the city, and draws (it’s her favorite thing to do). Mira likes to look at a blank sheet of paper and think, “What if?”; in creating her colorful masterpieces, she’s filled her room with a rainbow of hues. However, the city outside remains a bit dull – perhaps Mira could change that too. She gathers some of her drawings and spreads them around the neighborhood, giving a red apple to the shop owner, a flower to Ms. Lopez, and taping a bright yellow sun to the wall. It’s the last one that captures the attention of a passerby painter, who closely examines Mira’s picture, prompting the girl to ask what the man sees. “Maybe… something beautiful,” he replies, explaining that he is a muralist and inviting Mira to help him with his work. As the two fill the gray neighborhood with color, more neighbors join them, adding their own color, music, and joy to the artworks. At last, the neighborhood has been transformed into a place of inspiration and happiness; something beautiful, indeed.

Wonderful. Based loosely on the real life San Diego Art Trail, the story is told with the focus more in the art – and the magic of making it – than dates or names. Indeed, the muralist of the story is unnamed, though he is clearly identified as being López in the backmatter. Rather than the López being the focus, this is instead placed upon the communal nature of the murals, and how art can bring people together, inducing happiness through both its admiration and creation. Mira provides an excellent character to provide point-of-view; even her name is a clever nod to the act of appreciating art. My only complaint is a scene on when the muralist, at that point a stranger, invites Mira to come with him to create art and she does; it may be important to point out to young readers that they should never go off with strangers. Still, the glorious illustrations will inspire, the length is good, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Day You Begin (Jacqueline Woodson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Day You Begin, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López, a beautiful and moving ode to the courage it takes to be oneself.

In life, there will be places that you go where you are different. Places where no one else has your hair, or your skin tone, or speaks your language. Places where the food you grew up with is suddenly “too weird”, or other people will not pick you to play with them. Places where you may not have as much money. Places where they might whisper about you, or say mean things because you are different from them. These places can be scary and lonely, and you may be tempted to think “what does my life matter?” – but it does. You are only a fraction of what you will be, of all that you will learn and do and see. And this place is but a few notes in the symphony of your life. So summon your courage, and be yourself, differences and all – you never know who might be different just like you…

Absolutely gorgeous. This book gets to the nitty-gritty of being “other”, looking at all-too-familiar ways that children can marginalized or ostracized based on race or culture or economic status or simply that, sometimes, kids can be quite mean. It also subtly yet powerfully touches on the feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness this can invoke, and validating them. And it encourages kids to soldier through, but not at the sacrifice of who they are. In a time in which self-harm and suicides due to bullying is on the rise, and we face an often terrifying attitude about minorities, this is a vital message for vulnerable young minds. The art is bursting with color and light, serving to brighten a sometimes dark theme, and is just perfect in tone. The length was great and JJ and I both loved it. This should be read to every single child, to show that it’s always been our differences that make us great. Baby Bookworm approved!

What’s Your Favorite Color? (Eric Carle & Friends)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the visually stunning What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle & Friends, a gorgeous collaboration of fifteen of the most beloved children’s book illustrators on their favorite colors.

What’s your favorite color? Is it yellow, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Eric Carle? He likes yellow because it is often the color of the sun in children’s drawings. Or is it green, like Philip C. Stead, who likes to imagine that many things can be green, even an elephant if he really feels like it. How about the late, lovely Anna Dewdney’s favorite: purple, the color of her favorite childhood outfit and the peacocks she dreamed of having one day. Or is it blue like Bryan Collier, who is reminded of his daughter whenever there are rainy days and blue balloons. Everyone has colors that are special to them, even many colors, or all the colors! How about you? What’s YOUR favorite color?

Absolutely stunning. For kidlit nerds like me who absolutely love picture book illustrations, this is quite simply a treasure trove. Each color-inspired spread is unique, personal, and visually striking, from Mike Curato’s raccoon enjoying a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone to Frann Preston-Gannon’s vibrant orange tiger hidden in grass to Jill McElmurry’s hauntingly beautiful black garden. The short blurbs that the artists have written to accompany the colors are sometimes funny, sometimes touching; all of them will make you consider each color from a different perspective. The length was fine, and JJ and I both adored it – this was even the first color book in which JJ was able to distinguish between gray and black, and the first time I’ve heard her use “black” properly! A feast for the eyes for readers of every age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!