Everything in Its Place

h1 July 26th, 2022 by jules


Ah! This book! Pauline David-Sax’s Everything in Its Place (Doubleday, July 2022), illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, really gets introverts. It’s a story for those children with their small social circles, for those children who are energized by their alone time, and for those who would rather read a book alone than make that fearful entrance onto a playground with children playing in groups. And it is sensitively told and playfully, beautifully illustrated.

Nicky volunteers in the library during recess. There, everything has its place, and she can avoid the socially hoppin’ playground. She also loves the books, the “numbered shelves,” and the librarian, Ms. Gillam. “Who needs recess,” thinks Nicky, “when you can reshelve books?” Ms. Gillam likes to leave gentle hints about Nicky heading out to the playground, but thanks very much, Nicky loves the shelter of the library and she’ll stay there. Ms. Gillam, however, announces she’ll be gone for a week at a conference. “A whole week of recess and my stomach starts to hurt,” Nicky thinks.

The other place Nicky loves to be is her Mama’s café with its regular patrons. Nicky’s favorite is Maggie: “short hair, scruffy clothes (just like me), fork in one hand, book in the other, as she eats Mama’s pie.” One day, Maggie even gives Nicky a book of poetry by Mary Oliver and then zooms off on her motorcycle. She looks, Nicky thinks to herself, so alive and free. When Maggie’s “sisters” pull up one day on their motorcycles, Nicky watches them, noting their camaraderie. Two of these spreads are pictured below. For Nicky, it’s a struggle to put herself in a social group and engage in such a relaxed manner, but readers get the sense that, thanks to Maggie, her introduction to these “sisters” is a step in the right direction. Maggie is quietly role-modeling the way it can work. And toward the book’s close, Nicky gets her own opportunity to make a friend on the playground.

David-Sax’s prose, told from Nicky’s point of view, often flows like poetry, and she captures the interior world of an introvert with precision, care, and respect. Barlow’s illustrations include collaged bits of text: a portion of an old-school card catalog entry sits on the bottom left of the verso of a spread or the text on a card catalog entry is collaged into the silhouette of a dinosaur (when Nicky pretends to be interested in the 560s so that Ms. Gillam won’t see the tears in her eyes when she tells her it’d be good for her to “hang out with kids your own age”). These are dynamic spreads with their playful compositions, scale, and perspectives. (In one spread, Nicky and Maggie sit and talk in the café on an oversized bowl, giant salt shakers in front of them, as if they’re sitting on a curb. On the recto, Maggie zooms off on her motorcycle.)

Here are some spreads so that the words and art can do the talking. …


“The sounds of recess waft through the open window. Everyone’s found their group: soccer players, the jump-ropers, the kids who love hopscotch. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“I’m confused. Sisters? Like the bikes, they are all different colors, shapes, sizes. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“I watch them in wonder: all so different, but together, too. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“A shadow crosses the page and I look up. It’s a girl …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE. Text copyright © 2022 by Pauline David-Sax. Jacket art and interior illustrations © 2022 by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, New York.

3 comments to “Everything in Its Place

  1. Books are excellent, and stories can work wonders for introverts and extroverts alike! Very cool color scheme.

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