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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Like a Windy Day
Like a Windy Day
by Frank Asch, illustrated by Devin Asch
Voyager Books/Harcourt,(March 2008)
I want to play like a windy day. I want to zoom down hillsides
and race through streets.
I want to scatter seeds
--Like a Windy Day, by Frank Asch, illustrated by Devin Asrch, p. 1-8.
Have you ever felt excited when the wind blows strongly, and wanted to join in? The girl in Like a Windy Day wants to play the way the wind does, and she imagines many ways to do this. This is a book that will delight any reader who enjoys fantasy or flights of the imagination. Like a Windy Day is a sweet, fun book that will spark imaginative thinking and play.
Frank Asch (Happy Birthday, Moon,Mooncake, Mrs. Marlowe's Mice) and Devin Asch's (Mr. Maxwell's Mouse, Mrs. Marlowe's Mice) text is playful and fanciful, encouraging the reader to imagine how they could play like the wind. I love this idea. The text reads like a poem, with the initial idea "I want to play like a windy day" repeated several times throughout the book, and each page or spread containing one idea of how you might do this--scatter seeds, snap wet sheets. The repetition of the phrase both encourages readers to come to expect the line, and to imagine what might come next.
The idea of playing like a windy day may at first seem abstract, but the authors quickly make it concrete with specific examples. Some of their examples use strong verbs and specific word choices to create visual and almost auditory images (snap wet sheets, shake the dew from a spider's web), which brings a strength to the book, while others are more general and don't come alive as much (steal hats, wave flags). I would have preferred that all the images have that same freshness and use strong verbs, though I know that's hard to do.
The text is simple and flows well, though sometimes it feels like there are too many beats in a phrase. At times I found the text lacked something--I wanted more specifics, more of the delight that is so evident in the illustrations, to be expressed in words. And yet many of the examples are beautiful, and inspire me. The closing feels like a closing, encouraging readers to move from the active and playful windy day to a gentle breeze.
Frank and Devin Asch's pen-and-ink illustrations, colorized in Photoshop, are a visual delight. The illustrations are beautiful and feel-good, with the two main characters--the human girl and the wind, depicted as a wind-girl (or boy)--each looking happy, light, and free. There is a sense of magic and play in the illustrations, and this is increased by the wind-girl, herself, who can fly, and whose legs don't seem to taper to an end, but curl and stretch like the wind itself. The wind-girl captures my attention in every illustration, with her silhouette lighter than any other color and standing out against a darker background, and the happy image of her flying, hair streaming behind her, her body looking almost like frosted glass. She looks so carefree.
The human girl and the wind-girl are always the focus points in the illustrations. The human girl always stands out with her bright blue coat and pink-and-red scarf, drawing the reader's eye to her. From there, the reader's eye is drawn to the wind-girl through visual choreography that pulls the reader's eye to her--leaves that make a trail toward her, streaks of wind that move from the girl to the wind-girl. This works well, tying the two characters together and ensuring that we notice them both. Although the wind-girl is faded, light like the wind, she is always placed on darker backgrounds, which helps her stand out.
The illustrations are bright and full of color. The illustrators use varying shades of color and brushstroke effects to create texture, such as the color variation in a blade of grass, the roughness of a building, or the graininess of the sky, with dark and light to create a sense of shadow. The sense of texture adds to the overall appeal. This contrasts with the smooth one-shade of the girl's skin and socks and shoes. I don't think I would have known that all the color was all done in Photoshop, especially the textured color, though I'm not a Photoshop expert. Some things, though, such as the hot-air balloon and the girl's skin, are more obviously done in Photoshop.
The sky, where the wind-girl flies, plays a big part of most of the illustrations. The sky is shown in various transitioning colors, such as an orange-yellow sunrise, a blue day, a purple-hued sky, though many of the skies are shades of blue or green. The abundance of sky adds to the feeling of lightness. Characters and scenery seem flat, almost like cut outs, but because the illustrators use perspective and layering, there is an illusion of some depth.
The illustrations give some practical ideas of how a person can experience that feeling of flying on the wind (by riding on a skateboard), or how a person can feel the pull of the wind (by flying a kite). But most of the illustrations pick up and add to the fanciful tone of the text, showing the girl playing like the wind in ways that we can only do in our imagination, such as riding on a leaf, or flying through the air with an umbrella. This adds to the playful magic and joy of the book, and will spark reader imagination.
Some spreads will particularly appeal to readers who love fantasy and beauty, such as a spread where the air is filled with butterflies and Canadian geese, the wind-girl drawing them onward through her body, the girl following in a hot air balloon.
If you like books that make you dream, or feel-good books, you'll like this book. This is a beautiful, gentle book, sure to inspire the reader's imagination, and help them briefly see the world differently. Highly recommended!
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