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Gathering Sparks Hardcover – August 3, 2010
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3–Schwartz and Swarner have created another beautiful picture book based on Jewish folklore. The narration begins when “you” ask “your grandfather” about the origin of the stars. He responds that before people were created, God sent ships carrying light sailing across the sky. These fragile vessels broke apart, scattering their precious cargo across the Earth and sky. It is the job of the human race to gather the “sparks of light” and restore them to their proper place by doing acts of kindness and love. An endnote explains that the story is based on a Jewish myth, and although the author refers to “God,” there is no reference in the story to a specific religion. Schwartz's language is simple, personal, and poetic, and his use of the second person adds a sense of intimacy. The text is printed in a large attractive font on top of the full-spread, full-color illustrations, sometimes black on light, sometimes white on dark. Swarner's stylized, painterly artwork is soft and gentle and complements the peaceful mood of the text. The rich, textured greens of the grass and trees and the deep speckled blues of the sky contrast with the soft radiance of the child's and grandfather's faces. This is a handsome book with a timeless message.Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A man and his grandchild go outside to look at the stars. Before the world began, Grandfather explains, God sent 10 vessels carrying light across the sky. If they had stayed intact, “the world would have been perfect,” but they became increasingly fragile and broke apart. Most of the light they carried formed the stars, but some sparks were lost. People’s love and good deeds have the power to release the hidden sparks, which rise up to restore the broken vessels and mend the world. An appended note explains the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which is based on a sixteenth-century rabbi’s teachings. From the opening narrative framework of grandfather and grandchild, the traditional story flows easily, then ebbs back, drawing the concepts of kindness and love into the child’s own experiences. The artwork creates mysterious effects, with hazy textures and muted colors that seem to glow with their own soft light. A quietly lovely picture book from the author and illustrator of Before You Were Born (2005). Preschool-Grade 3. --Carolyn Phelan
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The author maintains (on the last page) that this book is of Jewish origin, from Rabbi Isaac Lucia. She says that the story is really about Jews having their destiny post-diaspora, having been flung all over the world. And that their role is tikkun olam, or repair of the world. That makes for a nice allegory. And to be sure, my littlest kids loved this book. As a parent, I like the concept of "gathering sparks." It makes something difficult to think about (restoration) really easy for kids to understand. It's a lot like the "Have You Filled A Bucket Today?" concept.
But as a religious parent, I was still a little disturbed to see such a similarity between this story and a religion that was dubbed extremely heretical by Christians and Jews throughout the Middle Ages. If you're a purist and care about this sort of thing, I wouldn't buy the book. Or if you don't approve of the tradition of reading stories into the biblical account, then don't.
If you don't care about any of this kind of stuff, go for it! The illustrations are wonderful and you'll all enjoy it at face value.
The book is gorgeously designed. Kristina Swarner's luminous, full-page mixed-media illustrations glow in muted colors, accenting the dreamy quality of Howard Schwartz's poetic text, which is based on a 16th century Jewish teaching about repairing the world. The award-winning author and illustrator have each written and illustrated many children's books and collaborated on Before You Were Born ( Roaring Book Press, 2005). Meant for ages 3- 6, this beautiful book is perfect for parents, grandparents and teachers to read with their children and students, and is highly recommended for all ages. Winner of a 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award. Andrea Davidson