This is quite possibly my favorite new book from this year. (But who can ever choose ONE favorite picture book.) As the subtitle so aptly puts it, “A story about a simple act of kindness,” this beautiful book is wordless, simple, thoughtful, and a much-needed gift for everyone. I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët, 2018.
Years ago I was very nervous whenever confronted with a wordless picture book. But thankfully I have grown to love them, especially when they are handled so perfectly and as beautifully as this one. (Check out my wordless book tips if you want some help overcoming your own trepidation towards them.)
What is it about?
The story begins on the title page with a family moving in to a home. As the page turns, we see the little girl from the new family starting her first day at her new school. While the child we assume is Vanessa is a character, she is not the only character. Look carefully and you’ll quickly discover who this book is actually about.
As the pages turn, Vanessa is already feeling nervous and not quite fitting in yet. Things get worse when she is bullied and runs home crying.
The reader then follows the main character. She saw the bullying happen, didn’t react or didn’t know what to do, and it weighs on her. The next day however, she has a plan!
Why I picked it
This book hits all the right picture book notes. I’m so grateful it is wordless. Words are completely unnecessary here and would detract from reading what is really important – all the emotions. The illustrations are amazingly simple and powerful. You can study each page and decipher what every character might be feeling. Almost every page is stark white with the characters dotting the scenes with color. The heaviest page is the darkest in tone and ink, bearing the weight of the darkness, the weather, and the thoughts of both characters.
Who made it?
Husband and wife team Sébastien Cosset & Marie Pommepuy create under the name Kerascoët. They have deeply moving illustrations. Loose and spare, but thoughtfully full of movement and expression. I would love to know more about their collaborative creative process!
Who will love this?
This book is an excellent gift for anyone and everyone. A while ago I heard a great talk about how important it is to not label anyone a “bully” but instead to talk about the act and effect of bullying behavior. Everyone is capable of acting in a bullying manner. This is exactly what this book does. While we see a child acting meanly toward Vanessa, we don’t focus in on him. In the start of the story, no one had reached out to Vanessa. She was almost invisible in the way the others treated her. While the boy was wrong in his big act, I love that the focus is more on what kindness looks like. The story is about Vanessa and everyone else watching who help change the story. One girl starts the change and begins a domino effect of bringing Vanessa into the group. Kindness begins with a simple act and blooms into something wonderful.
This story can be read and talked about in so many ways. Even trying to understand why the boy might have acted that way! Every character has a perspective on the book and every person will feel something from this lovely story.
Bonus Gift Pairings
Come back tomorrow for the next favorite book from this year in our 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books countdown!