Staff Picks, The Joy of Picture Books: Deborah Marcero
Popular children’s book creator Rosemary Wells is often quoted for having said, “All really good picture books are written to read five hundred times.” If, indeed, this is the case, let’s hope the picture book is enjoyed by both the child and the adult who reads it aloud five hundred times. A picture book definitely has the challenge of needing to appeal to children as well as adults. I think the two books I’m suggesting today are good candidates to be enjoyed by all.
I remember collecting items from nature and placing them in old mason jars when I was a child: wildflowers, leaves, and a number of insects: ladybugs, caterpillars, once even a praying mantis, so perhaps that is one reason In a Jar immediately appealed to me. I was also struck by the cover art, the woodsy setting, the long shadows, golden light, and the whimsical rabbits set right in the center. I simply had to pick up this book to read it.
Llewellyn, the main character in the book, likes to collect things and place them in jars for safe-keeping, but his collections are much grander in scope than my childhood treasures. Not only does Llewellyn collect ordinary things like flowers and leaves, he also collects sensual memories such as the sound of the ocean, the colors of the sunset, and the feel of the wind just before it snows. Llewellyn finds a friend, Evelyn, and their friendship grows as they create and collect wonderful memories together.
At its heart, this book promotes appreciating nature and valuing friendship. It is fun to study the illustrations and the contents within the jars and imagine all the adventures Llewellyn and Evelyn share. A turn occurs in the book when Llewellyn learns his friend is moving away, but even after Evelyn leaves, they find a creative way to maintain their friendship. Also, at the very end of the book, Llewellyn meets Max, and luckily, he has a spare jar to share with his new friend.
After listening to an interview with Deborah Marcero by Nick Patton on his podcast, Picturebooking, I learned about some of the inspirations behind the creation of this book. It did not surprise me to learn that the author had an interesting background working as a teacher and an artist in different places. I was also very impressed to learn she was in part inspired by magical realism in the book 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as the poetry of Emily Dickinson. All this to say, picture books may seem simple on the surface, but the really great ones are far from simple.
Find In a Jar in the library catalog Here
Listen to Ms. Marcero read In a Jar on YouTube Here
In February of this year, a sequel to In a Jar was released. Aptly named, Out of a Jar, this book features Llewellyn and again uses a jar motif to tell its story. This book is every bit compelling, but this book takes on a serious theme. Llewellyn is a little bunny with conflicting emotions. At the start, Llewellyn enjoys scary books, scary jokes and scary cartoons, but when he’s alone in his bed trying to fall asleep at night, he realizes he does not like to be scared. As he tries to deal with his uncomfortable feelings, Llewellyn finds a way to put his fear in a jar and hide it away in a dark closet. As the book progresses, Llewellyn experiences lots of overwhelming emotions he doesn’t quite know how to deal with, these feelings are also stored in jars. Pretty soon Llewellyn is bereft of all his emotions and is left not feeling much of anything. I won’t tell you how it ends! Just read it.
Again, this book is wonderfully illustrated. Llewellyn's strong emotions are illustrated in intense colors which leap off the page. I also applaud her creative use of jars to illustrate a point. I think many of us will understand the desire to hide away unpleasant emotions rather than dealing with them. This book could serve as an excellent starting point to discuss handling powerful emotions with young children.
Find Out of a Jar in the library catalog Here
I hope you’ll check out these picture books, especially if you enjoy sharing picture books with young children. Author/Illustrator Deborah Marcero is a talent whose work should not go unnoticed. Also, I wonder if there will be any more books published starring Llewellyn and his use of jars—I hope so!
The library owns four other books by Deborah Marcero. Two picture books, Ursa’s Light and Rosie & Crayon, and the first two books in a juvenile graphics series: Haylee and Comet: a tale of cosmic friendship and Haylee and Comet: a trip around the sun.