Lenny and Lucy

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by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead (Roaring Brook Press, 2015)

I have favorite books and then I have favorite books. This is a favorite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of book, one that you didn’t even know you were missing and there it is.

There it is.

The story begins on the cover. A car, stuffed to the brim and on the rooftops too. A dog, a man, and a boy inside, driving through the forest to somewhere probably new.

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But don’t go too quickly. Slow down here. (It’s scary out there anyway.) Bright endpapers, reddish orange for love and newness. A gold-embossed case cover showing hints of some friends. An owl, waiting in the treetops.

And then we’re back to the put-put-ing car, and the terrible idea.

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The new house wasn’t as good as the old one, but Harold was as good a dog as ever. Of course he was.

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When things are scary and you have your best friend by your side, you get really good ideas. And you make stuff. That kind of creating is problem-solving and comforting and navigating a world that is unfamiliar.

Peter (and Harold) made Lenny, the Guardian of the Bridge. Lenny, stitched-up safety.

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This is what’s always so remarkable to me about kids: their capacity for love, their endless empathy, and their foolhardy belief in things grownups are too big to understand. Even stitched-up-safety needs a friend.

A pile of leaves and some just-right blankets. A friend.

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All of them watch the woods and wonder about what’s out there, out past what they can’t see. And then there’s Millie, giving a voice to those wonders.

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The art in this book is mostly dark with flickers of bright. The story in this book is mostly dark with flickers of bright. That’s what life is sometimes, right?

Keep an eye out for that owl. Keep an eye out for your friends. Keep an eye on the last illustration of this book, where shiny spots from flashlights make a heart. The dark is still in there, but so are Lenny and Lucy.

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Thanks to Macmillan for the two illustrated spreads in this post!

 

A Home For Bird

By Philip C. Stead

{Philip and his wife, Erin, are the masterminds behind 2011 Caldecott-winning A Sick Day For Amos McGee. Erin also illustrated the gorgeous And Then Its Spring earlier this year.}

Fangirl alert. I like to think the ‘C. Stead’ part of his signature is reminiscent of my own jumbled ‘chiggins. Although I did mess that up on my driver’s license, so I really have no proof.

Vernon, a determined little toad, is a tiny collector of interesting things. On the day he finds Bird, Vernon decides to help Bird find his home.

Slow down when you read these small books…a bold but subtle clue reveals some details about Bird to the reader. Of course, dear Vernon doesn’t realize this, which just makes his journey even sweeter.

But. YOU MUST READ THIS POST. Philip reveals the history of this story and what he learned about his storytelling process with this one. He shares sketches and character studies, and the tender love he has for this book will smack you in the gut.

What more can I add to that? Not a lot.

A Home For Bird is just plain delightful. The crayon art is clearly a sophisticated execution of that medium, yet it retains an endearing childlike quality. The colors are bright but muted, the textures rough but warm. The word that comes to mind most is cozy. It’s a story that wraps around you.

I like to read it with a British accent. A terrible British accent, but I like to think that’s what Vernon sounds like. Maybe it’s a ride in the teacup? Crikey! Brilliant!

Here’s a closer look at that teacup spread. I love how the background is knocked slightly out of focus. Depth of field…with crayons. And gouache. And according to the Jules’ post above, these were unfamiliar materials to the artist. Gobsmacked.

Such a winner. Such a keeper. Grateful for this book in my library, and for this story in the world.

AND A PS…A HUGE humbled thank you to Betsy Bird and Mental Floss for including me in recent posts! Huge, really. And welcome if you have bounced over from those web gems. Hope you’ll stick around!