TITLE: Brick by Brick
BY: Heidi Woodward Sheffield (Nancy Paulsen Books, May 5), ages 3 to 7, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook.
STORY: Although Mama dreams of a garden and makes empanadas, the star of Heidi Woodward Sheffield's picture book is Papi — the father of our narrator, Luis, a bilingual Hispanic boy. Papi is a bricklayer in the city. Luis goes to school.
Luis knows that, brick by brick, Papi is building the city, and Luis is working, too, book by book — all books about dogs. Luis dreams of a house to live in, with a garden for Mama and dog for him. When he plays, he makes little clay bricks for that someday house, and a little clay dog.
He doesn't know that Papi is making bricks to build that home, and it is almost ready.
Luis declares Papi is strong, that he has arms like stone, and he looks it in Woodward Sheffield's illustrations. She collages together snippets of photographs and what could be wrapping paper patterns as well as cutouts of her own drawings. There's no 3D effect: The vibrant assemblies of pattern appear to fit seamlessly and lie flat without shadows; but against jewel-tone backgrounds, a richly textured world stands out boldly. We see seasons change in the city as we turn the pages.
The text is also a sort of collage, combining English and Spanish, with the Spanish explained by the English. Everyday language sits next to poetic bits and onomatopoeia. The effect is less seamless than the illustrations, but the story's heartwarming and a fine portrait of a boy's well-founded love for his hardworking father.
At her website, heidibooks.com, the author has a collection of activities and a teaching guide to add value to a picture book she illustrated, Are Your Stars Like My Stars?, written by Leslie Helakoski.
Read to Me is a Weekly review of short books.