All You Need by Howard Schwartz and Jasu Hu

h1 April 19th, 2022 by jules


Let’s take a look this morning at Howard Scwartz’s All You Need (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, April 2022), illustrated by Jasu Hu. This is the picture book debut for Hu, born in China and now living in New York, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

As he notes in a closing note in All You Need, Scwartz’s spare text, both plainspoken and evocative, came to him as a poem. “I was thinking about all the essentials everyone needs in order to thrive in this world … the essential things … to help them understand and appreciate the miracle of being alive.” What Hu has done with this text, which “stunned” Scwartz, is use her own life story as inspiration for the illustrations, making this warm and intimate picture book a kind of memoir.

Readers see a Chinese couple, about to give birth. At the page-turn we meet their child and watch her grow, playing in nature and often with a sketchbook in hand. As a young woman, she says goodbye to her family and flies to another country to study art. All of this, mind you, is conveyed in the visual narrative alone. In the end, we see her parents holding the same book readers hold in their hands. At every step of the artist’s journey is a swallow. Notes Hu in the book’s backmatter: “In Chinese culture, the swallow is a messenger that brings happiness and is a symbol of homecoming.”

There is a lot Hu does well here, but the way in which she conveys light in these watercolors is especially wondrous — almost breathtaking in spots. Each and every spread, even the one in which clouds gather rain, is infused with a glow. It’s a promise of what is to come for this budding artist who is buttressed by love as well as the other things all children need to thrive — “a planet to live on,” light, trees, “good food to grow,” fresh water, sleep, and more. The book is also a reminder that not all children have such essentials, a sad but fixable fact.

Enjoy some of these eloquent spreads below. …


“a sun to give you light”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“and warmth …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“and trees to clean the air for you to breathe.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“You also need good food to grow …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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ALL YOU NEED. Text copyright © 2022 by Howard Schwartz. Illustrations copyright © 2022 by Jasu Hu and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House Publishing, Inc. New York.

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