(Click to enlarge spread)
Happy Sunday, all.
Have you all been following the picture book coverage at the New York Times? There is a new children’s book editor over there, Sarah Harrison Smith, and I like her taste in picture books.
Case-in-point: Just this week she wrote here about the book I’m featuring today. The book is Sylvie Neeman’s Something Big, illustrated by Ingrid Godon (Enchanted Lion, September 2013), an import originally published in 2012 as Quelque Chose de Grand. Neeman is Swiss, and Godon was born in Belgium. This one was translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick.
This is the story of an adult and child (“the big one” and “the little one”) and an intimate snapshot of their day. The big one is clearly a caretaker of some sort; I assume it is the boy’s father, but it could be a grandfather or uncle. The young boy is troubled, because he wants to “do something big.” As the boy attempts to explain what he means, he gets increasingly frustrated, as he finds it difficult to nail what he means with just the right words. For instance, when he says that maybe “it looks a little like a lighthouse by the ocean,” since “it has the ocean all around it and there’s light at night,” the adult suggests that what the boy wants is to build a lighthouse by the ocean. Nope. As adults are wont to do, he’d misunderstood altogether, but he’s really only trying to help the boy suss out what he means.
‘Uhn-uh, not a mountain,’ giggles the little one. ‘That’s way too big!’
‘Like an elephant?’ The little one thinks for a minute, takes a bite of toast and says,
‘No, not like an elephant. That’s too gray. …”
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“You want to do something big but it’s hard because you’re still little, isn’t that right?” he finally asks.
They head out for a walk, strolling along a shoreline, continuing to talk. Neeman peppers the narrative with gentle, introspective moments like: “The big one thinks just how much he loves this little one, with his funny ideas and his funny boots. He can’t remember if he also had these kinds of ideas in his head when he was still little.” (This is the spread pictured at the top of this post.) The child finally acknowledges that when he looks at the ocean, he feels like he’ll be able to do something big. And, as you can see below, he just might have an opportunity to experience that something big before the book’s close.
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Godon’s art—which, as you can see in the art featured here today, is a cousin in style to the illustrations of Chris Raschka—is as emotionally resonant as the text. In one striking spread, we see the boy seated in frustration, and there are nearly scribbled lines trying to enclose him. The text reads: “The big one suddenly wants to hold the little one in his arms, but he doesn’t dare because he feels that the little one doesn’t really want a hug at the moment. First they have to resolve the problem of big things.”
As Smith wrote at the New York Times:
There’s an honest intimacy to the conversations between the small one and the big one that ring true; reading them, one realizes how rare they are in the realm of picture books, which so often seek to comfort or simply amuse.
This is precisely why I really like this book, this tender story that gives us a glimpse into both sides — the wonder of a child and the devotion of a parent, with all the complexities therein.
SOMETHING BIG. First American Edition published in 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books, New York. Translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Translation copyright © 2013 by Enchanted Lion Books. All illustrations here are used with permission of the publisher.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
2) When I think of that beautiful and very short woodworking scene with Jesse in the series finale of Breaking Bad, I nearly start weeping. That was just a touch of brilliance right there on the part of Vince Gilligan.
3) Compliments from people whom you respect and whose compliments mean something, ’cause they don’t hand ‘em out for free.
4) I lined up a speaking gig (librarians’ conference) for early next year in Alabama. I haven’t been to that state in twenty years, which is neither here nor there, but speaking at conferences like that is always good for a gumption-check.
5) Seeing my 9-year-old’s excitement over saving up her money and then picking out just the perfect gift for her little sister’s birthday.
6) Sam, singing my favorite song from this year:
7) I may or may not be heading to the ocean as you’re reading this. I particularly like this from the book featured today:
“When I look at the ocean,” says the little one, “I feel like it’s possible… Like I’ll be able to do something big. Do you feel that way, too?”
“I do,” replies the big one. “The ocean, the sky, the mountains—they give us that feeling.”
What are YOUR kicks this week?