“Verde’s unique style and simple yet increasingly important messages of peace, mindfulness, and community make her stories a must-share...A must-purchase.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“Walls do not just create barriers and divide spaces. They can be canvases for artmaking; opportunities to shape a community.” —The Horn Book
“This story of urban renewal sends a welcome double message by Verde: neighbors and neighborhoods are more than the way they look, and ordinary people can band together to transform big things.” —Publishers Weekly
A boy takes on a community art project in order to make his neighborhood more beautiful in this empowering and inspiring picture book by Susan Verde, stunningly illustrated by award-winning artist John Parra.
One creative boy. One bare, abandoned wall. One BIG idea.
There is a wall in Ángel’s neighborhood. Around it, the community bustles with life: music, dancing, laughing. Not the wall. It is bleak. One boy decides to change that. But he can’t do it alone.
Told in elegant verse by Susan Verde and vibrantly illustrated by John Parra, this inspiring picture book celebrates the power of art to tell a story and bring a community together.
Susan Verde’s first picture book, The Museum, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, was a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. Booklist praised, “The rhymed text captures the excitement of a being sparked by art.” Her other books include You and Me, I AmYoga, The Water Princess, and I Am Peace, all illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds; as well as Rock ’n’ Roll Soul, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell; My Kicks, illustrated by Katie Kath; and Hey, Wall, illustrated by John Parra. Susan is a former elementary school teacher with a Master’s degree in reading remediation. In addition to writing books, Susan teaches yoga and mindfulness to kids (and adults) of all ages. She lives in East Hampton, New York, with her three children. Learn more at SusanVerde.com.
The wall of the title belongs to a city building, its expanse broken only by a straggling vine, some graffiti, and a torn poster for some long-ago event. A boy addresses it: “Maybe once you were full of style,/ but no one has taken care of you./ You are nothing to look at.” In textural, mural-like paintings by Parra (Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos), friendly-looking, folk-art-style children play on matte pages. Though the landscape is bleak (“We cheer for the tiny flowers pushing through the cracks in the sidewalk”), the neighborhood’s families—of all colors—eat, dance, and laugh together (“there is love; there is joy”). The boy realizes that if something is to be done about the wall’s uncared-for expanse, it’s up to him: “I’ve got my pencil,/ I’ve got my paints,/ I’ve got my dreams.” The boy organizes his neighbors, and with paint, ladders, and smiles, they create a beautiful mural. This story of urban renewal sends a welcome double message by Verde (The Water Princess): neighbors and neighborhoods are more than the way they look, and ordinary people can band together to transform big things.
– Publishers Weekly, July 7, 2018
Verde’s unique style and simple yet increasingly important messages of peace, mindfulness, and community make her stories a must-share! This title is no different. Turning the first page, readers see the big wall referenced in the title, but also the bustling city street and sidewalks, and a boy—pondering the surface and wondering how he can make this empty wall something special that represents his life and his community. The boy walks children through the seasons, and they see that the wall is unchanged and unadorned as the city lives and breathes around it. The boy decides to take matters into his own hands, and with the power of art and community, he breathes life back into the wall, so it pulses and dances just like the people and neighbors it now represents. The final page shows the transformation and the simple words, Hey, Wall! Both the author and illustrator notes are instrumental in sharing this picture book as a read-aloud with students and will spark the necessary conversation of change and community, and how art can support both. VERDICT A must-purchase for elementary libraries that could easily support art curriculums covering topics of graffiti, street art, and using art to spark social change.
– School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
"Walls do not just create barriers and divide spaces. They can be canvases for artmaking; opportunities to shape a community. A little-boy protagonist directly addresses the neglected wall that faces his house: “You are nothing to look at. / You are cold, / old, / empty.” In a community whose better economic days seem past (the boy’s grandma “talks of a time when our neighborhood was beautiful”), where the children “cheer for the tiny flowers pushing through the / cracks in the sidewalk, reaching for sunlight,” the boy decides to take action. “I am a writer, a creator / a game changer, / a wall changer,” he declares, which sparks a community effort to turn the wall into a public mural. “Now you tell the real story of us.” Parra’s acrylic illustrations are in a similar palette to and display the same warmth as his work in Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos (rev. 3/18). A range of skin tones is represented; the children’s clothing is shown in deep reds, greens, and oranges; and the wall itself evokes the texture of bricks that have been painted over with a shade of cornflower-blue. Author and illustrator endnotes explain the impetus for the story and place murals within a larger context of art history, public art, and activism." -- The Horn Book
– The Horn Book
"This book tells the story of how one voice, one child, truly can make a difference. Told in simple, brief statements, a young boy speaks to the plain blue wall of lonely concrete on the street of his community that otherwise goes unnoticed. Indoor festivities in the community include delicious cooking and eating, colorful stories resulting in belly laughs, and exuberant salsa dancing. Outside, however, the wall stands in bleak contrast. The boy decides to take this matter to the streets. With art supplies in hand, he announces with confidence that he is a writer, creator, and wall changer. Joined by his friends, the wall is transformed from a blank blue canvas into a lively depiction of their loving community. Illustrated with a blue background throughout, Parra’s soft acrylics harmoniously detail the children designing the mural, then painting on ladders, and finally bringing the wall to life. Back matter by both author and illustrator includes the distinction between graffiti and street art as well as a description of where their love of street art comes from. This is an excellent choice to inspire classroom, school-wide, or even community art projects. Highly recommended.: School Library Connection
– School Library Connection, November / December 2018
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