Qualities found in nature are extolled and parallels drawn to strengths that can help children (and adults) face and overcome challenges.
Thomas’ first-person narration, which some listeners may find preachy and distant, seems intended to represent the voices of the various children pictured throughout. Their voices are similar, however, as each describes the ways that natural elements teach resilience, strength, and bravery, among other characteristics. Trees, for example, “show me how to stand tall,” while “Stones show me how to be strong.” The smoothly written, extremely earnest text is leavened by occasional wordplay: “Oceans show me how to travel far and wide. / I see all there is to see, / but I always return / with a friendly wave.” Neal’s double-page spreads, created in mixed-media and digital, have an appealingly childlike feel and are enlivened by some unexpected perspectives. The progress from day to night and back to dawn offers a logical flow, and a nighttime scene of a tiny boat floating above the shadow of an enormous whale among the reflections of stars and moon is particularly arresting. Characters are depicted with a range of skin tones, and a few glimpses of far-off skyscrapers add a hint of urban flavor to the mostly pastoral settings, but no particular cultural or ethnic group or geographical location is identified.
Textually purposeful and visually appealing, this may be useful to caregivers seeking to reinforce both positive traits and an appreciation for nature, but it’s unlikely to engender much enthusiasm without this kind of deliberate endorsement. (Picture book. 5-7)