I get really excited when I purchase a new picture book. Always have, probably always will. But when they come in the mail, free of charge, I get ecstatic! And today, in the mail, I received a real treat. The folks at Lee & Low Books (thanks JC) sent me a review copy of We, by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Kenneth Addison.
We is a story about evolution. It makes the bold statement (ever so subtly), that we, mankind, was born in Africa. Though the story is so much more than that, I thought it was brave that the author tackled the subject in the first place. I commend her for even going there.
I really enjoyed this book, felt good reading it. The words — written in a quiet rhythmic prose — work perfectly in sync with the art.
Kenneth Addison's artwork — mixed media collage (and digital, too, I think) — is eye-catching and filled with detail. I spent a good deal of time reading this book and studying the illustrations. But when I returned to read the book again, I discovered even more visual treasures that I'd missed the first time. Addison, who passed away shortly after creating the art for this book, uses varying color schemes throughout, and each one works successfully. My favorite is the opening, where cut images of water, land, and trees are layered against black mountains, and a deep cadmium yellow painted sky.
The text on the opening spread reads: "Slowly / layer by layer / the river carved its shallow bed / deep into the soil of Africa / undercurrents moved the brown mud downstream / water wore away stone / slowly the river broadened its bed / into a valley"
No punctuation, it just flows.
We is not a story about the origins of African people, as I had assumed reading the first page (having skipped past the jacket flap in a rush to get to the story). And it's not the story of Europeans, or Native Americans or Asians or Indians or Pacific Islanders, or Latins either. We is the story of mankind. It's our story — all of us! — from our birth in Africa to where we live presently, all over the world.
This book will, no doubt, provide opportunities for many discussions, especially those concerning creation vs evolution (which, admittedly, I struggled with a bit, being a Christian myself). I look forward to sharing this book with my son who's always filled with questions, and who is at that age where "why," "why," and "why," are his favorite words.
The author offers these links as websites of interest: