Book Review: All in a Day
All in a Day
By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Nikki McClure
Abrams Books for Young Readers
All in a Day is a throwback, no question. A simple storyline with gentle, poetic text, a limited color palate of black, blue, and yellow, and bold paper-cut illustrations all add up to a retro feel. In appearance, it looks like it could have fit in if it was published right alongside Marcia Brownâ€™s 1961 masterpiece Once a Mouse. For those reasons (as so often things that seem â€œold-fashionedâ€ tend to be) itâ€™s not a crowd-pleaser. All in a Day isnâ€™t a book kids will be begging their parents to buy. It is, however, a stunningly illustratedÂ book that deserves to be shared.
The theme here is living life to its fullest. The tone is one of wonderment. As the title implies, the storyline follows a dark-haired boy through one long, beautiful summer day in the country. Working in the garden, feeding the animals, playing games, taking a nap, exploring the wilderness â€“ itâ€™s a full day. The spare text is a rhyming poem that appears in small bursts on each two-page spread. It may not please all readers. The first time reading, I was one of them. I thought the text might tackle themes too difficult for children to wrap their heads around. Cynthia Rylant challenges the reader here, it it may be off-putting to some, but the illustrations lend a good dose of clarity.
Aside from enhancing the text, the artwork is just plain beautiful. Nikki McClure employs a time consuming cut-paper technique where every line on the page is interconnected. The colors are later added by computer. Each turn of the page brings a switch in the background color from blue to yellow. Itâ€™s the sort of art that takes on a whole new meaning when you consider how it was created. Look no further than the rainstorm scene â€“ it will have you wondering how McClure pulled it off. The childrenâ€™s lit blog A Fuse #8 Production recently mentioned All in a Day as a possible early Caldecott contender â€“ the illustrations absolutely merit that sort of discussion.
Now this isnâ€™t the kind of book that will jump up and down and declare its presence, slaying during read-aloud and wowing you with hipness or humor. But give it a chance. Quiet, beautiful books like this have a tendency to grow on readers.
Read an outstanding interview with illustrator Nikki McClure at Mishaps and Adventures.
Also reviewed by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, A Patchwork of Books.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
Filed under: *Best New Books*, Reviews
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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