I suffered a most violent shock to my delicate little system when I discovered that Amy Schwartz, an artist of Peter Sis like illustrations, is the author/illustrator responsible for the fabulous, "Bea and Mr. Jones". That particular picture book is without comparison. It is perfect and without flaw. Yet since its publication Ms. Schwartz has retooled her artistic bent. Instead of grand silly stories with grand silly (and large) black and white pictures, she now creates delicate tiny pen and ink drawing in contained colorful landscapes. There's a lot of white space to contend with in a modern Amy Schwartz picture book. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing. And certainly a book like, "A Glorious Day" has its charms. But I yearn for the day Ms. Schwartz puts aside her toddler fare and return to her kindergarten roots again. But that's just me.
In "A Glorious Day" there is a large cast of characters to contend with. If you've a good head on your shoulders then it shouldn't be too difficult to parse. The first sentence in the book is, "One baby, two little girls, three big boys, four little boys, two cats, and a bird live in a small apartment building make of red brick. They are all early risers". And we're off! With appealing zip and verve the reader bounces between the various homes, families, and kids in each of the important apartments. Kids wake one another up, eat breakfasts of varying health (I gotta wonder who gets the potato chips), and begin their day. Parents run to work or greet the babysitters. Kids accompany their various guardians. I won't sum it all up for you since (if you have children of your own you'll well know) a lot can happen in a single day. The book chronicles the various crises (lost pet), triumphs, and mundane yet oddly riveting moments that categorize a toddler's day-to-day life. By the end of the book the reader truly feels as if he or she has undergone all the things the kids here have, and the title of book seems to nicely sum up your final impression.
The families in this book are oh so metropolitan. Author Amy Schwartz hails from Brooklyn herself, and you can remain confident that she knows whereof she speaketh. From the concrete park to the structure of the buildings, this is a world that will be comfortingly familiar to some and enticingly new and different to others. I also liked the time and attention Ms. Schwartz has paid to multiculturalism here. The book has two white families, one interracial family, and one black family. I would've loved to have seen a gay family as well, but I guess a person can't ask for everything. What's really impressive here is that Schwartz seems to know these people really well. You can check out how in one household everything's neat as a pin while in another things are a little more haywire. As for the text, it's sweet. I particularly enjoyed the moment where Henry's mother points out to her son that a fellow toddler has "lovely underpants". Says Henry, with a touch of the self-aware about him, "Henry wear underpants sooner or later".
Any parent who has ever had a child will understand this book. Now it is not, I'll grant, on a level of the magnificent "Bea and Mr. Jones". But you should never judge an artist solely on their early works of genius. "A Glorious Day" has its own charm. It tells a story that will be instantly recognized and appreciated by its intended audience. And it makes for a lovely little reading. A book that captures what we're used to and renders it "glorious".