Review by Megan Litwin
The first page of SOMETHING GOOD (LBYR, 2021) written by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken, starts like this:
“The day the custodian found the bad-something on the bathroom wall…”
With those words, Campbell drops us right into this beautiful, powerful story – and into the tangle of feelings and questions that circle through an entire school community. As readers, we never find out exactly what was written on the wall. But the students do (as kids always do) - and everything changes. In the aftermath we see varied emotions, as children and adults process those emotions in different ways. Ultimately, the community finds a way to move forward and toward healing as they create “something good” together.
There is so much to love about this book – from Campbell’s sensitive and careful approach to difficult subject matter to Luyken’s signature color-forward approach. Huge double-spreads on each page swirl with colors that evoke emotion. Everything feels immediate – the writing, the feelings, the faces.
Much like ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE, another layered title by this same dream team, SOMETHING GOOD is a timeless picture book that can help build better humans. And that is something VERY good.
Marcy Campbell is a strong writer, and she makes two conscious and powerful decisions here that make readers feel connected from the start.
First, even though there is a singular narrator, that narrator (a girl) is a collective voice for the school. She uses encompassing plural pronouns like “we” and “us” and focuses on the things that are happening to and with the group. Consequently, the story becomes everyone’s story; everyone in the book – and everyone reading it, too.
Second, note Campbell’s straightforward prose. There is no extra imagery or description just to be pretty – the beauty is in the direct language that allows WHAT is happening to take center stage. It leaves room for readers to feel all the things they need to feel. A lesson in “less is always more.”
Use SOMETHING GOOD to consider the nouns you assign your manuscript's narrator and the power that gives your narrator and your story. Finally, be brave and follow the example of SOMETHING GOOD- cut the flowery language in your prose to allow the beauty of an underlying message to shine.
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