Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood.
By F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. Illus. by Rafael Lopez. HMH.
With paint, brushes, and artistic spirit, a muralist transforms Mira’s gray neighborhood into a place of color, joy, and unity. Based on a community art movement in San Diego, California.
We love the Little Free Library because it’s exactly what it says: little, free, and in your neighborhood!
They just started an Action Book Club featuring titles that inspire community change and progress, including Maybe Something Beautiful among the recommendations. Find the Little Free Library in your area and see how books CAN make a difference, starting with just one kid.Visit the Little Free Library website
First Mira gives a painting of an apple to Mr. Henry, the shop owner. She then offers a songbird to Mr. Sax and a deep red heart to the local beat cop. Still, her art project hits its limit. “Her city was less gray—but not much.” Soon a mysterious artist approaches Mira, offering a boost. “What do you see?” Mira asks him. “Maybe…something beautiful,” he replies. Leading readers on an infectious ride, Campoy and Howell’s text bristles with dazzling energy. Words pop out of the page in bursts of oomph (“BAM! POW!”) as color begins to fill the city. The authors, moreover, mix in dynamic moments with quiet scenes, producing a tone both lively and contemplatively hopeful. The illustrations, however, are the main attraction. López, whose career as a muralist inspired this story, loads each double-page spread with curves, splashes of paint, and geometric shapes, changing page orientation for emphasis at times. As Mira’s neighbors join in on the fun, the city comes alive with unforgettable human spirit. The mysterious artist sums it all up: “The world is your canvas.”
An inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb.”
I’m taking a moment today to share some artwork from F. Isabel Campoy’s and Theresa Howell’s Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2016). The book is illustrated by award-winning artist Rafael López, but he is also the subject of the story. Based on a true story, it’s the tale of a girl, named Mira, who lights up a gray city with color after she shares her art with community members. Handing out art to everyone she passes, her city becomes “less gray—but not much.” But the next day she meets a man with “a pocket full of paintbrushes,” who sees “[m]aybe . . . something beautiful.” Mira joins him to paint murals in the city, and eventually nearly the entire town joins in to help and bring the town to life with color, art, and creativity.
Inspired by how illustrator López and his wife, Candice, helped enliven their San Diego neighborhood through art, Campoy and Howell introduce Mira, a young artist who sees possibilities in blank paper and loves to give away her pictures (“She gave a songbird to Mr. Sax and a red heart to the policeman who walked up and down the streets”). Mira finds a kindred spirit in a joyful muralist: “Maybe… something beautiful,” he thinks as he looks at a painting Mira has taped to a dreary wall. As Mira begins contributing her own murals, others join in. Somber gray buildings are soon replaced by electric shades of pink, blue, and orange—the bold shapes, vivid colors, and flattened tableaus of López’s mixed-media artwork bring a mural-like atmosphere to every page as Campoy and Howell deliver a clear, uplifting message about the power of art to revitalize people and their surroundings.
If it was possible to give a book 10 stars, I’d do it. A book like this doesn’t come along all that often. Exquisite in thought and design, it carries a powerful, layered message for all readers—children at all ages and adults. Isabel Campoy hits compelling and potent notes in her writing, while Rafael Lopez dazzles with images that bring the ideas to life. It’s going to be a focus in my mentor text workshops, no question.