Smart, clean design and a text built around unpunctuated phrases offer room to pause, ponder and discuss in this book of quiet joy.
Ample white space foregrounds a multicultural cast, whose patterned clothing, props and minimal, but visually exciting, settings take center stage. In the opening spread, “how to go fast,” readers consider options as eight youngsters whoosh by, one riding a scooter, another navigating stilts, a third sporting butterfly wings. The parade’s leader is nearly off the page. “How to see the wind” prompts conversation about the kites, grass and hair shown at various angles—and the metaphysical question itself. Morstad explores topics of interest to children, from “staying close” (two girls sharing one braid) to disappearing—a scene in which meaning comes first from the curtained image; the text is nearly invisible. She intersperses colorful backgrounds, as well as single- and double-spread compositions for an overall effect that elicits anticipation at every turn. As in this Canadian’s illustrations for the work of other authors (Caroline Woodward’s Singing Away the Dark, 2010; Sara O’Leary’s When I Was Small, 2012), the characters’ delicate features exhibit an absorption in their activities that simultaneously signals the seriousness and satisfaction of concentration. The “be happy” conclusion portrays unself-conscious movement—including that initial runner, leaving the book.
In these inventive scenarios, children will recognize themselves and find new ways to be. (Picture book. 2-6)