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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Because Amelia Smiled, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Candlewick, Random House. 2012. $20.00 ages 3 and up

"She thought of her grandson,
Lionel, in Mexico and baked
some cookies to send him.
Because Mrs. Higgins baked
Lionel ate one of the cookies.
He decided to share the rest
with his class...
and teach them an English
song about cookies."

If we are joyful, can we make a difference in the world? You bet, we can!

Even a little girl as young as Amelia can do it...and she does, in spades. In David Ezra Stein's newest picture book we are delighted observers of all that happens when one person's joy goes out into the world. It is a perfect mentor text for cause and effect...when one thing happens, it can, and often does, affect what happens next.

I think that it belongs on EVERY book shelf...and it should be read more than once a week!  The words are few but the joy of paying it forward is fully evident on every image-laden page. The artist dedicates the book 'To you: Pass it on!' We would all be wise to do just that!

Amelia and her family are beaming as they dance through street puddles and Mrs. Higgins, watching from her window, takes note. That makes her want to do something for her grandson Lionel...and so on! With each new smile and good feeling, something wonderful happens, until the tale comes full circle.

I love that the author uses perfect language to move us from one good deed to the next, with not one unnecessary word. We need know nothing more that what he shares with us...all because an exuberant and lively little girl smiled. The details are just right for the youngest readers and will appeal to the grandmothers sharing the story with their grandchildren. It is universal.

What about the artwork, you ask? AMAZING! Each spread is filled with color, exuberance and great joy. He uses pencil, crayon and watercolor to create detailed pictures sure to inspire conversation, memories, and much speculation. As we visit with the recipients of the good deeds, we travel from New York to Mexico, England, Israel, Paris, Italy and right back home to New York. Every turn of the page holds a new vista, and many wonderful little surprises. I could not move on until I had perused every corner, not wanting to miss a thing.

It makes me smile - every single time that I read it...and that's the truth! What a great way to start the day...Amelia, you are a dear, sweet girl and I am happy to have met you!

I think it is very fitting today to include a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which is found on the back flyleaf:

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

And from David Ezra Stein:

"The story of Amelia is bigger than anything that can fit in a book. It's the story of how we are connected. To people we love. To people we don't even know. Whether you know it or not, you are part of the story, too."

Now, we can all get out there and pay it forward...

1 comment:

  1. Perfect timing, Sal, for this weekend of celebrating service day and the inauguration and remembrance of MLKJr.
    I don't know this title and will be searching it out, but it reminds me of one I wrote about in a post on kindness, Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed:'s+extraordinary+deed
    Your post made me smile and I'll head out to pass it on now.