Saturday, September 12, 2009

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Marla Frazee

I have spent a week thinking about how to talk about this book, because it seems to me impossible to do it justice. And yet, all through that time, I've been talking about this book.

Here's what I know. There is no such thing as perfect. Really. But this picture book by my friend Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee comes close. Liz has written a marvelous poem, but one that's hard to picture. Marla has drawn a lovely narrative, but one that doesn't make complete sense on its own. Together, those slightly imperfect pieces make a perfect whole (or as nearly as is humanly possible to create).

As I said in my mention last week, All the World is a work of epic beauty inside a picture book package. I love this book for its size, its cover, its lime-green endpapers, its flap copy and author & illustrator info, its words and its pictures. I love it for its lyrical, song-like qualities, for its generosity of spirit, for being so simple and yet so terribly complex that a week later, I remain gobsmacked. I love it for its pictures that wind along the California coast, for its inclusiveness (mixed-race and same sex couples made me especially happy), for its ability to show that all the world is all of us.

I have heard this book described by others as an immediate classic and a book with Caldecott potential (boy do I agree - not that I have any influence over these things, but man!). Bloggers whom I know to be highly articulate were brought to their knees at the thought of talking about this book, because it is difficult to know how to do it justice. If you've experienced this book, I'm guessing that you know whereof I speak, and that you also want to do it justice (and quite possibly feel inadequate). This book is that good.

This is a book that sings to places in your soul and that manages to completely engage you whether you intended to be engaged by it or not. Perhaps you opened it to humor a friend or see what the fuss was about, but most likely by the you reached the end, you found tears in your eyes without having realized that you were becoming emotional. Most likely you realized midway through that Marla Frazee's illustrations were moving through a particular (imaginary, as it turns out) landscape, and you wanted to go back and look through it again to see how the "camera" flowed along. Most likely you felt changed, somehow - maybe in a quiet way, maybe in a profound way - like those of us who are middle-aged might have done for a brief moment when we first heard We Are the World or Do They Know It's Christmas?, or if we stood next to friends, neighbors and strangers holding hands for "Hands Across America", when something inside felt that upswell of realization of interconnectedness and good will - our own particular Ebenezer Scrooge moments, when the shackles and fetters drop off, if only for a moment, and we realize that life is good and we resolve to keep Christmas in our hearts every day. It is, in short, a revelation.

Go. Buy it. Whether you share it with the people in your life or hug it to your chest and remind yourself that there is good in the world and that we are all connected, this book will do you good.

If you're still on the fence, check out this review by Jama Rattigan (complete with gorgeous spreads and quotes) and this interview of Liz and Marla at 7-Imp, with backstory on the development of the illustrations and more spreads.

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