Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More by Joanna Schaible

Once Upon a Time There Was and Will Be So Much More by Joanna Schaible. Candlewick Studio, c2020, 2021. 9781536222135

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This existential Swedish import mixes beautiful illustrations and ingenious construction to give children a visual representation of the passage of time. Opening endpapers show tiny white stars on a black background and as we turn the page, we see a turbulent earth in blaack and red, utilizing acrylic and cut-paper collage. Each successive page is slightly smaller than the one before, as we move through dinosaurs, nomadic tribes, the Pyramids, a steamship voyage, fall (a month ago), a busy city (a week ago), a storm (yesterday), and a minute ago (bedtime and the light switches off). Make a wish! The unseen narrator admonishes as a shooting star flies across the sky on a tiniest piece of paper. Now the pages increase in size as the narrator poses a series of questions: where will you be tomorrow, who will you meet next month, where will you live in 10 years, what sites will stay with you always? The pictures we’ve seen in the past are now replicated in the second half of the book, but now looking forward to the future. I loved the physical manifestation of parallels between the past and the present, made concrete by the ordering and relative sizes of the pages. This is a lovely, thoughtful, and quiet book that could serve as an invitation to talk about big topics.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For children ages 3-8 of a philosophical and theoretical bent. It might be more appealing to adults than to children. The gradual miniaturization of the images and their subtlety means it will work best one-to-one, possibly as a dreamy bedtime story.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries or for gift giving

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, a unique and interesting effort.

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: September 25, 2021

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