Book Review: Life

Sep 7, 2018

"Life" by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett with a book review of “Life” by Cynthia Rylant, with illustrations by Brendan Wenzel.

In a stunning new picture book, Newbery Award winner and prolific Oregon author, Cynthia Rylant, has teamed up with the up-and-coming illustrator – and Caledcott Honor winner – Brendan Wenzel.  It’s a cross-generational artistic collaboration that really works.

“Life” is deceptively simple.  Rylant’s text is spare, the sentences short, and pairs beautifully with the evocative and engaging illustrations.  Wenzel uses a variety of media, heavy acrylic brush strokes creating the rocks and earth, with watercolor and pencil for the dense foliage that curls across the pages.  At the surface level, the book is suitable for sharing with the youngest child, with baby animals galore, and stars, and camels, and whales.

Not only does the book capture the wonder and joy of life, it also holds space for the challenges that face us.  An adult reader will bring their own experiences to the book, seeing hidden meanings everywhere.  It’s here that Rylant and Wenzel truly work their magic with the lightest of touches.  “Life is not always easy,” they say.  “There is always a new road to take.”

For me, two spreads stood out in particular.  As we see daily headlines about the effects of climate change, a quizzical polar bear reminds us that in every corner of the world there is “something to protect.”  And, in an absolutely gorgeous two page spread of birds flying in the moonlight, “...know something about life: that everything is changing.”

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing “Life” by Cynthia Rylant.