One rainy day, as she ran down a New York City street between her parents, a little girl named Amelia smiled. Maybe it was in response to their attempts at dodging the drops, or maybe she simply enjoyed the feel of the cool rain. Whatever the reason, Amelia’s little grin started a chain reaction of shared happiness in David Ezra Stein’s new picture book Because Amelia Smiled.
If you’re a contemporary picture book lover like me, you’ll surely recognize Stein’s name from his hilarious 2010 romp, Interrupting Chicken, a book I happily promoted on our site when it was a Cybils Awards nominee before it went on to win the award for the best picture book! (Click that link to read about why I love it so much!) While that little chicken cracked me up, this newest offering is much more touching and endearing than humorous.
Following the idea that one good thing leads to another, Amelia’s lovely little smile is observed by a woman looking out her window, who smiles, too, as a result. That smile gets her thinking about her grandson living in Mexico, and she decides to bake him some cookies. When her grandson receives those homemade cookies, they’re so delicious he has to share them with his class, while teaching them a song in English. And so the happiness goes on, from those students in Mexico via some cookies to a ballet club in England thanks to a video posted online, all the way to a child watching a dance show in Israel! The effects of that smile continue to travel around the world until they return again to New York. As you might have guessed, the story comes full circle, with Amelia’s adorable face lighting up in another smile in the closing pages.
I really value the idea at the heart of Because Amelia Smiled— one little smile can bring much joy to many people. What a powerful message for young children to hear! When I read this to my younger children recently, my six year old daughter let out a happy sigh at the end. “Oh, I just love that. The smile just went around and around.” Another highlight according to her are “all the colors in the pictures,” a deft way to describe Stein’s sketchy and highly colorful illustrations that convey movement and action so well.
In fact, as part of the promotion of this joyful book, Candlewick Press sent me and my children some smiles-on-sticks to get a little goofy in place of our regular grins. I, of course, have a ton of pics of my kids with these, but I’ll take just one moment of your time to share my six-year-old daughter’s silly smile, as she’s a huge fan of this great book.
I had the fabulous opportunity to chat with David Ezra Stein this past weekend at the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival. What I loved most among the things he said during our conversation was that Because Amelia Smiled was simply something he felt he “needed to do.” He says he envisions this book as a lap book to be shared with children of all ages, with various levels of explanation or discussion with different aged children. He sees many different ways that adults can help children connect to the story, which is so heartfelt. I especially enjoyed the way he described a child’s experience with his illustrations: “Kids can definitely fall into the pictures.” The warm spirit that is alive in Because Amelia Smiled was evident in Stein’s personality, and I thank him for taking a few minutes to talk with me, a huge fan! (And for taking a photo with me and my oldest son!)
Are you ready to smile? We have a copy of this sweet picture book to give away to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment to be entered to win. (US shipping addresses only, please.) We’ll announce our winner in our October 10th giveaway column. This giveaway is now closed.
- The winner of Being Visual: Raising A Generation of Innovative Thinkers is Mary Gardner.
- The winner of The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is #16 Barb:1SentenceDiary.
Dawn’s adoration of picture books gets indulged every day in her preschool classroom and when reading with her own children. When she gets a chance, she tries to blog just a little bit at my thoughts exactly.