All from a Walnut

h1 March 1st, 2022 by jules


In Ammi-Joan Paquette’s All from a Walnut (Abrams, March 2022), illustrated by Felicita Sala, Emilia wakes one day to see a nut on her nightstand. It’s walnut season, and this little gift means that Grandpa has a story for her.

The story is that of Grandpa’s chilhood. Textual and visual clues indicate he was in Italy, but his parents “needed to move. It was a long journey, and we could bring very little with us. Just one small bag each.” As a boy, Grandpa had picked a walnut from the tree outside his home, and this is what he brings with him across the ocean. As he grows, he carries it in a pot from place to place but eventually, after meeting his wife, plants it right by his new home in “good brown soil.” Emilia is thrilled to head outside and take in, with new eyes and a new understanding, the sprawling walnut tree next to the home where Grandpa still lives. (“In this house? In this yard?” she asks of the walnut.) Next to it is another smaller walnut tree, which Emilia’s mother had planted when she was a girl. The two take the walnut Grandpa had left by Emilia’s bedside and plant it in a pot (pictured below).

A sprout appears, and the small tree branches and grows. Unfortunately, “Grandpa moved more and more slowly.” Emilia senses that Grandpa is dying and, in one spread, holds him close in a tight hug. “After that,” we read further, “Emilia held her grandfather close for as long as she could.” Paquette conveys his death in such a spare way — it is quite moving in its eloquence — but I can’t possibly ruin it for you. Emllia plants her tree in the soil next to her Grandpa’s and her mother’s, and readers even get a peek at her adulthood at the story’s close.

It’s a tender, but never cloying, tale. Paquette’s lyrical text captures an enduring intergenerational bond: “She knotted her arms around his craggy shoulders. She held on tight.” Felicita Sala’s illustrations — in rich greens, browns, blues, and reds (save for the sepia tones of Grandpa’s past) — are splendid, particularly her depictions of the sprawling, leafy walnut trees in Grandpa’s yard. Her visually rich narrative takes readers through the seasons of a year, and she brings Emilia’s family, Grandpa’s home (and the glorious natural world around it), and the book’s strong emotions to vivid life.

Here are some spreads. …



Two images above: Click first one to see spread in its entirety


“‘When we arrived, I planted my nut in a little pot. Times were hard,
and we moved around a lot. My nut came with us. …'”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)



Two images above: Click either one to see spread in its entirety


“As time passed, Grandpa moved more and more slowly. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

ALL FROM A WALNUT. Text © 2022 by Ammi-Joan Paquette. Illustrations © 2022 by Felicita Sala and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York.

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