Amelia’s smile, brought on by a rain shower and seen by a neighborhood grandmother, catalyzes a cheery chain of happy consequences.
The ripple of resultant good acts (the grandmother makes her grandson cookies, he teaches his class a song about cookies, one of his students then decides to become a teacher...) travels from New York to Mexico, England, Israel, Paris, Italy and finally back to New York. This streaming story, with its lively artwork and satisfying page turns, allows even young readers to see the interconnectedness of people, the effects of open-hearted deeds and the contagion of happiness. Indefatigable linework (in pencil, water soluble crayon and watercolor) encourages readers to explore every corner of the page, from every angle. Energy zigzags across the illustrations, showing each teeming locale, rendered jaggedly and joyfully. Such dizzying inclusion makes sense in a book about how we’re inextricably bound together in this kooky world, but readers might feel adrift in these busy, sometimes murky pictures. There’s little variation in color saturation and therefore no visual relief or fixed point of focus. Stein manages to expand and reduce the world at once, jumping across wide oceans, countries and continents while connecting the teeny-tiny lives of individuals. When the chain of smiles comes full circle, returning to Amelia and making her grin, readers smile too.
A playfully profound picture book that does its part in passing on good feelings. (Picture book. 4-8)