Something Good Before Breakfast

h1 July 20th, 2021 by jules

“The bad-something. My mouth popped open. Tanisha turned around and ran out. Kiyoko kicked a stall really hard, and the sound made us cover our ears. Emmie started to cry.”
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“The day the custodian found the bad-something on the bathroom wall, all the girls from Mr. Gilbert’s class were called into the principal’s office.” Thus opens Marcy Campbell’s Something Good (Little, Brown), illustrated by Corinna Luyken and coming to shelves in early September.

The “bad-something” scribbled in a bathroom stall is never named — though in a closing note Campbell, while explaining that the story was inspired by real-life events at her children’s schools, mentions “hate speech.” The principal grills the children and then tells them the bathroom is off-limits. Some of the girls sneak in there anyway and have a visceral emotional response to the “bad-something.” This spread is pictured above.

Classmates watch each other closely, the girls knowing that even a boy could have snuck into their bathroom to do this: “We studied their faces to see if anyone looked guilty.” Everyone feels “horrible”; in time, the entire school community knows what happened — even the parents.

Campbell captures with a striking socio-emotional precision how this kind of incident can leave a group of children reeling: “We missed the days,” she writes, “before the bad-something appeared, because everything was different now. Some of us felt worried or confused or sad or angry. No one felt nothing.” Students even find themselves altered in unexpected ways by the words in the stall; they become “meaner than we used to be.” This spread is pictured below.

But the principal, Mrs. Martínez, is on it. She holds an assembly, speaking with a “crackled” voice, telling them the bad-something has no place in their school. The teacher of the group of girls we meet as the book opens (who speaks to them with “shiny” eyes) also has plans for an attempt to heal, plans that include an art project. (In her closing note, Campbell writes: “In my own life, I’ve found that creating art is a useful way to process strong emotions.”) The aesthetic results, thanks to illustrator Luyken, are stunning. See her paintings below. And the results of the inner lives of the children are promising: Their teacher reminds them that the bad-something “somewhere deep underneath … was still there.” But they had changed it by intentionally covering the wall with their “good-somethings.” They study their art, and they write about it. They share their poetry with one another. As a student named Devon reads his poem:

Some kids smile and nod. Some kids lean way forward so they won’t miss a thing. Some kids close their eyes and let his words wash over them.

We take our time to look at one another. We all see something. Something good.

Campbell’s decision to place readers right in the action of the story, as if we are a student ourselves, is an effective one. For this reason alone, the powerful story can serve as a springboard for discussion in classrooms and libraries. Luyken uses expressive linework (jagged lines early in the book convey a lot of the tension) and an expressive palette to extend the book’s varying emotions. A striking pink shade dominates, capturing the flushed, embarrassed, hyper-charged feelings of the students. In the end, a hopeful and resplendent yellow is there in the students’ artwork: “We couldn’t believe what we’d made!”

Below, Corinna shares some preliminary images (I thank her for sharing), and below that are some final spreads from the book. …


Preliminary Images:


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Some Final Spreads:


“We missed the days before the bad-something appeared, because everything was different now. Some of us felt worried or confused or sad or angry. No one felt nothing. We were meaner than we used to be. Like when Devon went to sharpen his pencil and tripped, and we laughed.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Mr. Gilbert sat in a circle with us. His eyes were shiny when he said we had a big project — an art project — and we could all participate.”
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“Each one of us had something to add. Mateo drew flowers, and Rosa drew dragons,
and Kai drew both, plus rainbows and dogs and lots of smiling people.”

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“We drew our whole class. And then we kept going. We drew our whole school.
The principal liked it so much she let us keep working on it, a little bit each day,
until practically the whole wall was covered.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

SOMETHING GOOD. Text copyright © 2021 by Marcy Campbell. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Corinna Luyken and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown, New York. All other images used by permission of Corinna Luyken.

4 comments to “Something Good Before Breakfast”

  1. Brought back memories when our locker room was vandalized in my former K-8 school and the students worked together to repaint it. A teaching moment, but not as beautiful as the one that unfolds in this book. The emotions that affected the whole school immediately following the incident were much like those in this book.

  2. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Alice!

  3. I love that they created art out of yuck. I also really love that the illustrations are detailed, yet kind of vague and give that vibe of Anykid – not that they’re not individualized but even in their diversity there’s a sameness to them, if that makes any sense.

  4. […] is a short video showing the book case.  At author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson’s Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast this title is showcased.  There are many pieces of art, process and final to […]

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