With my local library restricted to “curbside pick-up” options, I’ve turned to raiding my husband’s book collection. (I’m still a bit wary of the germs accumulating on library books. When I volunteered right before the shutdown, the librarian warned me of the sticky, goopy messes I would find when reshelving books. I’m not sure I want to know what’s been added because of this virus.) So, I found the beautifully-covered book If I Never Ever Endeavor by Holly Meade on our shelves.
“If I Never Ever Endeavor”
First and foremost, Holly Meade‘s illustrations leap off the page. The layered texture shows up so clearly that I kept touching the pages to feel the bird’s wings. Even the watercolor sky added so much depth to the images. In fact, the watercolor swathes often reflected the bird’s feelings and expectations. Truly, Meade excels at art.
That said, the quality of illustration far surpasses the quality of writing. While I love the premise of the book, the language was often so disjointed and the rhythm so inconsistent that I had a hard time following along. Honestly, I felt like I was reading a tongue twister. Several passages sang and flowed with rhyme, but the following passages dropped like a dud. Of course, the challenge of finding multiple rhyming words with a bird theme affected the flow. I think in trying to keep the story original, Meade used a convoluted structure to overcome any repetitive rhymes. It didn’t destroy the story, but it did take away from the book’s readability.
Working Through Fear
What the book lacks in structure, it makes up for in heart. The little bird’s struggle to fly reflects a very human fear of change, failure, and rejection. I love the pages at the climax of the book when the bird decides to try flying. The bird doesn’t instantly swoop into the air like a superhero. Instead, the bird plummets. He struggles at first, but he keeps on flapping. That perseverance ultimately gets the bird flying.
While I might have revised the structure and rhyme scheme of If I Never Ever Endeavor, I see myself reading this book to my future children one day. The book will help me encourage them to try new things. It will give me the opportunity to remind my children that God protects them. God won’t always keep them from failing, but He will support them and lift them back up when they fall.
When This Book Is Gray popped up as an Amazon First Reads option, I had to download it. I learned about the hilarious Crayon books from my brother, and I hoped Lindsay Ward’s book would be just as an entertaining. How does This Book Is Gray stack up in this colorful genre?
The Color Wheel in This Book Is Gray
As a non-artist, the explanations of the different types of colors immediately struck me. I loved that Ward included a “Color Glossary” in the first pages of the book. Even before the title page, Ward showed us the personalities of the characters and introduced the central conflict. And she did all this with only a handful of speech bubbles!
I also loved the layered aspect of the story. Gray wrote a book himself that we saw in the background. Yet, the majority of the action happened in the foreground as all the rainbow and achromatic colors argued. As a writer, I couldn’t help but relate to Gray as he responded to the critiques of his peers. Nobody listened to him and ran off with their own assumptions of the story before he could finish it. Yet, Ward created hilarity in the chaos. Even as the characters resolved their conflict, the humor returned. The background story started yelling at the foreground story for Gray to finish the book. I truly admired Ward’s ability to use a rather complex structure in such a smooth and humorous way.
Can We Find Faith in Colorful Conflict?
First, by basing her book on the color wheel, Ward reminded us of the beautiful world God created. She pulled out the unique qualities of each color. Ward showed how colors work together to create a complete picture. Truly, Ward’s knowledge of the complexity of color reflected on the vast creativity of God.
Second, Ward acknowledged our prejudices by centering her book on the oft-forgotten color gray. By showing how the colors grew in their understanding of Gray, we learned that there is often more to others than we realized. The colors’ learned empathy for Gray showed us that we should embrace the complexity of others. This again acknowledged the beautiful creativity in God’s creation.
Overall, This Book Is Gray reminded readers to notice complexity and beauty in even the mundane, overlooked aspects of life. Even without the hilarious exchanges and comical misunderstandings, I have to recommend the book for its message. All together, it’s a pretty great little package.