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Two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marla Frazee brings her considerable talents to a timeless celebration of birth and life in In Every Life, a wonder of a picture book.
In an introductory note, Frazee shares the long history of her book’s inception. In 1998, she witnessed a call-and-response-style blessing for a new baby. She’s made a number of attempts to illustrate the blessing, but it took her more than 20 years to find the right way to finish the project. The book, dedicated to her first grandchild, is certainly worth the wait.
The book’s format is deceptively simple, with spreads alternating between text and gorgeous, wordless, full-bleed paintings created with a soft palette of pencil and gouache that’s resplendent with golds, blues, pinks and violets. Frazee’s prose lends a lyrical, comforting rhythm to the textual spreads, which contain a single phrase rendered in large type and interrupted by the gutter: “In every birth, / blessed is the wonder”; “In every smile, / blessed is the light.” Beneath each phrase are full-color spot-art depictions of families, with a single shade dominating each spread. In the “birth” spread, for instance, we see a diverse array of parents, grandparents and siblings welcoming newborns, all highlighted in pink tones.
As its title suggests, In Every Life plumbs deeper expressions of the mysteries of human experiences, including sadness, illness, pain and love. Frazee’s art has a classic, almost retro feel, and there is so much here for young readers to observe and discover. She doesn’t shy away from scenes that will be best shared with children by adults in a quiet, one-on-one setting, rather than in a group or storytime setting. Vignettes that accompany a line about sadness and comfort include a crestfallen child next to a soccer ball, a family mourning their pet and a young patient in a hospital bed. Yet there is light humor here, too: In a spread about hope, Frazee portrays two people with a kite checking the sky for a breeze, a child on the potty and a family preparing a turkey for roasting.
Frazee’s love both for her art and for life itself shines from each page of In Every Life. This gentle, luminous book is a treasure.