The Picture Book Buzz

One Thursday Afternoon - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

It is a talented and brave soul who tackles some of the tougher topics affecting children. Barbara DiLornezo's created an amazingly tender and honest picture book dealing with the fears many children feel when they hear the news or participate in lockdown drills (or God forbid active shooter events). I especially want to highlight this book as it is the first picture book to address this topic and it is stunning!

One Thursday Afternoon


Author/Illustrator: Barbara DiLorenzo


Publisher: Flyaway Books (2022)


Ages: 3-7


Fiction


Themes:

Fear, lockdown drills, scary news, need for space, listening, together time, and art therapy.


Synopsis:

When Granddad picks Ava up from school one Thursday afternoon, she's quiet. She doesn't want to talk about the lockdown drill that has stirred up her worries.


How can she be so afraid in a place that has always felt so safe?


Granddad doesn’t talk much either; he just offers creativity and companionship. And with his gentle encouragement, Ava begins to sense that although the world can be scary, it is still a beautiful place.


With tender insight, One Thursday Afternoon sheds light on how an unpredictable world can make a child feel, reminding us that big fears can become smaller when we take time together to look, listen, and create. An author’s note about the story’s real-life inspiration and recommendations for how adults can help children overcome fear is included.


Opening Lines:

One Thursday afternoon,

Granddad picked up Ava

from school.


What I LOVED about this book:

This seemingly innocuous opening is immediately belied in Barbara DiLorenzo's opening illustration. A lockdown drill notice on the door and Ava's face cue the reader into the fact that this might not be a "typical Thursday afternoon."

Text & Image © Barbara DiLornezo, 2022.


It is also not overtly scary for younger readers opening the book. It's subtle. And younger readers might focus more on Grandad's smiling face, at least in their first read(s). But Ava's body language, as she droopily shuffles into the car and sits silently frowning in the back, reinforces her unhappiness. The close-up images full of browns, beiges, and lots of white space suddenly explode into a glorious fall image full of light and shadow as Grandad takes Ava, a snack, and their painting supplies to a park. But when Ava expresses a preference to go home and be alone, Grandad's response is pure gold.

Text & Image © Barbara DiLornezo, 2022.


“But I had a bad day. I just want

to be alone right now,” Ava said.

“That’s okay. I won’t talk,” said Granddad.

“We can both be alone. Together."


After their silent snack, Grandad begins setting up his easel and art supplies. I love Barbara's images of Ava having the space to feed ducks, stare into space, and poke a stick about the pond. The deep, yet softly colored, rich fall illustrations are not just emotionally satisfying, but stunningly illustrated. Grandad's willingness to give Ava time to think, to feel, to work out how to express what's bugging her, while simultaneously providing a presence, love, and deep acceptance of her feelings is wonderful. He doesn't need to push or talk. He just needs to be a constant force of strength and love in her life. A wonderful gift to Ava and a splendid example for all of us - parents, family, teachers, coaches, and librarians alike. With a flock of ducks providing a bit of visual humor and the soft autumn colors and gentle images, the youngest readers will delight in Ava's soothing afternoon picnic and art time with Grandad.


When she finally decides to paint, Grandad encourages Ava to first reach outside herself with all of her senses. Stilling her mind and fears gives her room and safety to tell Grandad about the scary lockdown drill. After sharing about his childhood (duck and cover drills), and that he's sometimes still afraid, Barbara depicts them in a stunning wordless spread jointly participating in a bit of art therapy by focusing on the beauty around them. This is one of my favorite spreads. [And, by the way, this print was accepted into the Society of Illustrators 64th Annual Exhibition.]

Text & Image © Barbara DiLornezo, 2022.


But Ava just can't shake her sadness and fears. With a delicate, deft touch, both texturally and visually, Barbara shows how listening, being quiet together, and making art (sometimes done all at once) can give us all room to experience our fear and sadness, "develop resilience and courage," and find the beauty in nature and in others. We may not be able to alleviate our own or others' fears, but we can always listen. You are going to adore the rest of the story and the ending spread is both encouraging and heart melting. Be sure to take a look at the beautiful sepia-toned end papers which gorgeously frame the story between a classroom scene and their drive home from the park.


A wonderful author's note explains Barbara's very personal connection and her desire "to validate all the feelings kids have about things that scare them." This is a poignant and important book, one that will resonate with a number of kids and adults (sadly too many). It is also applicable and useful for helping kids experiencing any fear or anxiety. A book that shows kids it's okay to be upset and afraid and reassures them that they are not alone. A wonderful addition to all book collections.


Resources:

- make your own origami ducks. What color ducks would you make or color?


- do you have a special place in your yard, neighborhood, or park where you can quietly sit and look for the beauty around you? Draw or paint a picture, or write a description, of this special area which uses as many of your senses as possible. What do you see, hear, smell, or touch?


- check out the amazing Resource and Activity Guide on Barbara's website.


If you missed the interview with Barbara DiLorenzo on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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