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March 24, 2021
 

Abundant Love Before Breakfast

 

By Jules

 

We’ve heard a lot lately in the field of children’s literature about books about “emotional intelligence” (the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, while also respecting the feelings of others). Though I sometimes wince at buzzwords (or phrases, in this case), I’m all for this. It can be a cold, cruel world out there, and children who learn to manage emotions at a young age, and who continue to, will have better relationships, healthy coping skills, confidence in problem-solving — all good stuff to make it easier to live on this planet.

Enter Jane Porter’s The Boy Who Loved Everyone (Candlewick, January 2021), illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring. There’s a lot to love about this one.

Dimitri is having a big day. It’s his first day at a new preschool. He’s happy to be there, and (as you can see below) leans next to Liam during storytime, rests his head on his shoulder, and tells him that he loves him. Sensitive Liam loves just about everyone and everything, and he’s demonstrative with his affection. He also tells (from somewhat of a distance) Sophie, Stella, and Sue on the playground that he loves them. He hugs the tree, with leaves shaped like hearts, and tells it he loves it. Ditto for some ants, the lunch lady, the class guinea pig, the paintbrushes, and even more classmates. He’s generally met with confusion, and most of the kids either blush, laugh, crack a joke, and/or turn away from him.

Now, it’s one thing to turn away from the creepy kid who can’t respect boundaries and can’t keep his distance. That’s not Dimitri, who generally (except for Liam) keeps his distance and who is merely one of those children with love nearly spilling from him. We all know those children, and the world can be a difficult place for them, particularly when their expressions of love are met with confusion. That’s where Dimitri’s mother comes in. When he tells her on the second day of school that he doesn’t want to return and she asks why, he responds with: “Because not one person there said that they love me.” It’s on their walk to school that day that she explains to him, while also pointing out examples, that people have various ways of showing how they feel. Even just a smile and a wave can mean “I love you too.”

It’s a big-hearted story, one that Porter handles with finesse. Shearring’s style is perfectly suited to this remarkably child-friendly tale; there is a looseness and spontaneity to her work, an unaffected air of simplicity. Also, I could stare at the first spread pictured below all day. Shearring has captured a preschool story time in all its erratic energy and weirdness (that’s a compliment). The kid picking their nose, while standing and listening to the story? The one lying down while someone plays with their hair? Yes, this is reality. And it’s very, very funny.

Below are two spreads.

Here’s to kids like Dimitri.

“It was Dimitri’s first day at his new preschool. He was very excited to be there. At storytime, he rested his head on Liam’s shoulder. ‘I love you, Liam,’ he said with a sigh. Liam didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. Once all the children stopped wriggling, the teacher began the story. It was about a dragon, a volcano, and a magic teapot. Dimitri thought it was an excellent story.” (Click spread to enlarge)

 

“At bedtime, Dimitri whispered, ‘I love you, Mom.’ ‘And I love you, Dimitri,’ she said. ‘You’re my best, best boy.’ Dimitri smiled and sighed and went to sleep.” (Click spread to enlarge)

 

THE BOY WHO LOVED EVERYONE. Text © 2021 Jane Porter. Illustrations © 2021 Maisie Paradise Shearring and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

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Here Comes the Sun

 

Today I want to share this sun from illustrator Elizabeth Haidle. It’s in honor of spring coming and the first buttercup I saw in our yard this week. It’s in honor of hopes that we’ll all get the vaccine sooner than we expected, thanks to Biden’s efforts and the news he shared this week. And it’s posted as we note the one-year mark of first coming to terms with the pandemic and heading inside to socially isolate. Whew. It’s been a long year, but the sun is coming out. Soon, we may even be able to hug a friend again.

You may remember Elizabeth from this 2019 post. As you can see from this Instagram post where I first saw the sun, Elizabeth will soon see (April 20) the publication of Tarot for All Ages. You can read more about it here. She says that the image pictured above is The Sun Major Arcana card.

Beautiful.

Image reproduced by permission of Elizabeth Haidle.

 

Julie Davidson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at her acclaimed blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books. The “Abundant Love Before Breakfast” blog was posted at 7-Imp on February 11, 2021 and is reprinted here with permission. “Here Comes the Sun” was posted at 7-Imp on March 14, 2021 and is also reprinted with permission.