Readers are invited to reflect on life with the help of animals.
Addressing readers directly, the narrator opens with a modest statement: “Life begins small.” See an elephant grow bigger as it walks underneath the fierce sun and gentle moon, through days and nights. Life, it seems, also promises change—and wonders. A hawk soars in the sky, while elsewhere, a camel stands tall in a desert. Sitting on a rock, a turtle relishes the “rain on its back.” Each glimpse of an animal in the natural world elicits a small jolt of joy thanks in part to Caldecott honoree Wenzel’s exquisite illustrations, which render these moments with low-key precision. On one page, dark and soft blues bathe an adult elephant and its smaller companion, both gray beacons in a picture of a nighttime march. On another page, a snake blends in with the smeared greens, yellowed brown, and hints of reds that make up the grass. But even with all these merry images, moments of bleakness can follow. The narrator proposes another fact: “Life is not always easy.” A small bird flies alone and vulnerable through a storm, seeming lost before it finally breaks through. Thankfully, Rylant keeps the narratorial voice direct and brief during scenes serene or frightful. Flashes of levity in the illustrations and text (think “grassssssssssss”) serve to underscore the creators’ trust in readers.
A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages. (Picture book. 4-adult)