All You Get to Keep

h1 February 24th, 2009 by jules

“There is a faith in morningtime,
there is belief in noon.
Evening will come whispering
and shine a bright round moon.”

I’m taking a moment here to tell you about Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant’s new picture book, to be released in March from Abrams Books for Young Readers. It’s called All in a Day, and it makes me happy. I mean, “there is a faith in morningtime, there is belief in noon.” How much do you love that? The book’s illustrated with boldness and style by self-taught artist Nikki McClure, but I’ll get to that in a sec.

This is a simple (well, seemingly — Rylant makes it look and sound easy) text that nudges the reader, gently urging us to consider: Just what will you do with your today? She gives us some refreshing takes on this notion of twenty-four hours. And what a day’s promise means. Or can mean. She introduces the day as a “perfect piece of time to live a life, to plant a seed…You can make a wish, and start again…” And, as you can see below (though the text may be challenging to read), it’s also a fitting time to find our way back home. Ah, sweet. If a “day is all you have to be, it’s all you get to keep,” then in a hammock with mama, resting under the sun, looks like a good way of being to me.

One can sensibly argue that this will appeal to adults more than to the wee ones. This crossed my mind — as well as, I see by doing a quick online search, Publishers Weekly: “{C}hildren aren’t usually moved by messages about fleeting time — that’s a sentiment adults are likelier to.” True. But, even as PW points out, the youngest of children will enjoy Rylant’s rhythms as well as the sweetness of the images McClure depicts with her cut paper and X-Acto knife: a young child feeding a chicken, riding on his father’s shoulder on a trip through the woods, playing in the rain, and—as you can see above—seeing new life grow and having tender moments with mama. This is a quiet lap-sit read with a preschooler, even a soothing bed-time gem.

McClure, as you can see, keeps the color choices simple: alternating blue and yellow backgrounds. It’s striking. (“Color is distracting to me. I like things black and white,” she told Chad Beckerman in the interview referenced below.) Her unobtrusive artist’s note at the close of the book explains her paper-cuts for budding artists observant enough to see the tiny print:

First, I draw the image on black paper, and then I cut it out with an X-Acto knife. I keep everything connected by a path of black paper. The paper becomes lace-like as the image emerges. I decide the width of line and what will be black or white as I cut. There is no erasing, so if I make a mistake, I just have to keep cutting and find a solution. The cut paper is then scanned, and color is added by computer.

I don’t need to point out to you devoted, astute 7-Imp readers that this notion of the artist’s inability to erase — keep working, no going back, “find a solution” — is yet another manner of meeting the day, whether we want to or not. Fitting, I think, McClure’s medium.

And don’t miss, as mentioned above, “mild-mannered book Designer/Art Director” Chad Beckerman’s recent interview with McClure.

So, I’m off. You’re off. “The past is sailing off to sea, the future’s fast asleep.” Your seven impossible things before breakfast are complete, right? Enjoy the promise of your day.

* * * * * * *

Spreads from ALL IN A DAY © 2009 by Cynthia Rylant. Illustration © 2009 Nikki McClure. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. New York. Posted with permission of publisher. All rights reserved.

16 comments to “All You Get to Keep”

  1. Thank you for the beautiful start to my day.

  2. This book is lovely! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. WANT it. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention!

  4. The concept of time as fleeting may not be something children can idenitfy with but the encouragement to DO and LEARN ’til you drop, so to speak, might. Nikki McClure’s rich illustrations are filled with movement. The bright colors inspire you to be energetic. It seems a good place to live for a while.

  5. Love that art style. Such impact from simplicity.

    Ella (our lovely middle child) is *SO* into anything written by Cynthia Rylant right now…well, at least all the series books: Cobble Street Cousins, Poppleton, High Rise Private Eyes. There’s just something about the subtle humor and fun dialogue that has captured her imagination.

  6. Terrific book, and such a great message for young readers. I especially liked the “rain could show up at your door and teach you how to dance” – I have seen people massively depressed when it rains and others enjoying the rain, its all about your outlook and this tries to help instill that in children. An excellent message.

  7. I’m reading this at the end of my day, and it is STILL such a treat. I very much need this book.

  8. This post and the interview (Chad Beckerman’s) which you linked to leave me with a profound sense of embarrassment that I have EVER complained about how complicated writing is. Creating fabuloso illustrations like these with plain old paper and scissors — I don’t know where to begin. The line that really killed me: “…if I make a mistake, I just have to keep cutting and find a solution.” That has got to be one of the most reverberant “just”s I’ve ever read.

    Love the message, and have the luxury of not needing to share it with any kids which makes it an unmixed blessing for me. 🙂

    (This, apparently, is Jules running in “Take THAT, fifth disease!” high-energy mode. Great post.)

  9. I look forward to reading this!

  10. Two of my favorite artists paired together in this new picture book! Even if our littlest ones won’t yet get Rylant’s deeper meaning there is so much to talk about in McClure’s illustrations. And a beautiful day it is!

  11. I will be running off to go check this one out ASAP! Thanks!

  12. […]  And now, she’s made a book with Cynthia Rylant that I can’t wait to see. Thanks to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for the heads […]

  13. Oh, I hadn’t seen this was coming out! I put it on order. (Kind of makes me want to read Hansel and Gretel again, too.)

  14. Her original papercuts are currently being exhibited at Powell’s in Portland, OR, and they are phenomenal. I was blown away by her work. She’s having a book signing in early March:

  15. I love Nikki McClure! Didn’t know about this book. Thanks! If you like her stuff, check out her book “Collect Raindrops”.

  16. […] reviewed by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, A Patchwork of […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.