Author / Illustrator Team Sarah Stewart and David Small:
(and they're married too!)
Summertime Author Binge
Our Summer reading continues! Our latest pile of books were from a husband and wife team - David Small and Sarah Stewart. Isn't it nice to see talented couples collaborating on their work? Small's illustrations finish out Stewart's beautiful, and often poignant stories, nicely, but he also appears to have a bit of a silly side, apparent in the books in which he is both author and illustrator.
Before I knew of either of these authors, I knew of Imogene's Antlers from watching Reading Rainbow in my youth. I stumbled upon the book again when searching for worthwhile picture books for my kids and from there was introduced to Small's other books as well as the books he collaborated on with Stewart.
The books authored by Small seem to be appropriate for a younger age group. We all thoroughly enjoy Imogene's Antlers over and over and over again. (It's actually one of those books that we own and we'd definitely replace if the house burned down.) His books George Washington's Cows and Paper John are also good for a few laughs. (just a note: one of the characters in Paper John is a devil. After reading it I decided it was totally fine to read with my kids, but just wanted to give you a heads up in case you, like me, appreciate heads ups about those sorts of things.)
In my opinion, Stewart's books are for a little bit older audience, both in terms of content and comprehension. Most of her books are thoughtful, poignant, and deal with themes perhaps better suited to older kids (5 or 6 and up maybe? My 3 year old listens to these books, I'm sure the significance of some of the stories is lost on her.)
In The Gardener, Lydia Grace is sent to live with her cranky Uncle Jim to lessen the burden on her family during the Great Depression. Through her letters home, Lydia Grace reveals her plan to finally make her uncle smile when she reveals the ambitious gardening project she's been working on.
Stewart's book The Journey is written as journal entries by a young Amish girl names Hannah who experiences the "big city" for the first time. Her account of what she sees and experiences is broken up by word-less pages depicting scenes of Amish life to illustrate the drastic differences between the two worlds.
In The Quiet Place, Isabel and her family are moving from Mexico to the United States and we witness her anxiety transformed into excitement through the letters she writes home to her aunt.
We also read Stewart's books The Library and The Money Tree, and although we enjoyed them, I don't imagine we'd get them out of the library again. Actually, I'm not sure my kids "got" the money tree -- I'll let you read it for yourself and tell me what you think :)
My very favorite book by Sarah Stewart is The Friend. It's written in a delightful metered rhyme that is so pleasant to read and hear. (Usually rhyming books irritate me because the author has to use a bizarre word order or use not-quite-the-right-word to make the rhyme work... but for the most part, these rhymes are just sweet and not painful to listen to ;) ) I fell in love with the main characters in the book on the first page - "decidedly odd" Belle, the daughter of wealthy, distracted, rarely-around parents, and her friend, Bea, the housekeeper. To see Belle "working" along side Bea every day, and the gentle way that Bea responds to the results of the little girl's "helpfulness" (tangled laundry, washing water on the floors, cookie icing all over the kitchen...) is so comforting, edifying, wholesome, beautiful -- take your pick and fill in a feel-good adjective, because you just know from the text and gorgeous illustrations (David Small, of course) that Bea loves that little neglected Belle something fierce. The two friends spend their free time at the seaside each day... and you can't help but get choked up at the end when... hmmmm I'll just let you read it :)
Gosh, I think those librarians must not know what to make of me.... who will she fixate on next?? Stay tuned for the next installment of Summer Author Binge-ing when I'll gush about one of my favorite illustrators of baby books!! (Hint... we have a gazillion - give or take a few - of her board books :) )