Today brings the official release of my newest book, All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, illustrated by Nicole Xu and published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.
It’s my 19th book, and though I’ve written about some topics that may have once seemed unlikely subjects for picture books (daylight fluorescence and Reconstruction come to mind), I imagine that this American tragedy — which occurred 25 years ago this spring — must strike some people as the least likely of all.
So I’m especially heartened by this review from Sharyn Vane in the Austin American-Statesman:
Barton traces an arc of hope in prose simple enough for early picture book readers to grasp and evocative enough to grip older readers. … All of a Sudden and Forever [is] a distinctive chronicle of the bombing, but also a window into how healing can happen after any tragedy. As well, he underscores how crucial it is to honor such an event with remembrance. Like all the best picture books, this one works on multiple levels, and it deserves remembrance as well.
The review goes on to acknowledge how “Nicole Xu’s stark, linear illustrations evoke both the horror of the attack and the quiet beauty of connection, echoing and amplifying Barton’s text.”
I can’t imagine a bigger challenge for a debut picture book illustrator than tackling this subject, and I think Nicole did a marvelous job.
Debut illustrator Xu’s artwork perfectly accompanies the narrative with muted blues, lavenders, and corals, elevating the spare words with emotion-filled landscapes. Though the characters don’t have facial expressions, every figure emotes with its stance, arm position, and shape, and the ever-present greens of the elm tree light up the darkness with perpetual hope. This ultimately triumphant work of nonfiction reverently pays tribute to the memory of those whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy.
As for why and how we made this book, I address that in this post on the Lerner Blog:
From the beginning, all of us involved in making All of a Sudden and Forever have faced the challenge of balancing three considerations: the specificity of what happened in Oklahoma City 25 years ago on April 19, 1995, the effect that the bombing had—and still has—on people’s lives, and our desire to make this book feel like a timely, relevant source of comfort and reassurance as future tragedies of other sorts happen.
I hope we succeeded. We did our absolute best.