LIFE

Life begins small, then grows…

Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel explore the beauty and tenacity of life.

There are so many wonderful things about life, both in good times and in times of struggle. Through the eyes of the world’s animals—including elephants, monkeys, whales, and more—Cynthia Rylant offers a moving meditation on finding beauty around us every day and finding strength in adversity. Brendan Wenzel’s stunning landscapes and engaging creatures make this an inspiring and intriguing gift for readers of all ages.

Rylant (Creation) looks to the natural world for wisdom and consolation as Wenzel’s (They All Saw a Cat) lush, heavily worked artwork imagines a primordial Earth with few signs of human existence. Life begins small, Rylant opens; among bare hills, a lone plant sprouts from red earth. Then it grows. A fantastic gathering of wild animals and birds looks out at readers expectantly. Ask any animal on earth, what do you love about life? Each animal has its own answer (The hawk will say sky), and its distinctive nature and perception determine the way it sees the world, just as ours do. Difficulties appear and fade, and when low moments come, trust the rabbit in the field and the deer who crosses your path. Animals are not just wise: twin vignettes of an eager dog and a wide-eyed cat remind readers that in every corner of the world, there is something to love. Readers in search of inspiration that does not need to be taken on faith will find it in Rylant’s message that to live is to grow.Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW 
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 Wenzels 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.Kirkus