cover image Just Because

Just Because

Matthew McConaughey, illus. by Renée Kurilla. Viking, $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-5936-2203-2

In his picture book debut, actor McConaughey offers up some folksy wisdom about life’s often contradictory nature. Tracing moments of kindness and hurt, clarity and befuddlement, and achievement and catastrophe, a series of short, rhyming assertions begin “Just because...” paired with the rejoinder “doesn’t mean....” In one vignette, a child snatches a ball from another, and the narrator notes, “Just because you’re a bully,/ doesn’t mean that you’re strong”; directly below, the aggressor, now hit with remorse, realizes that “Just because it felt right then,/ doesn’t mean it won’t feel wrong.” Variably saturated, digitally cartooned vignettes by Kurilla (One Springy, Singy Day!) show kids of various abilities and skin tones engaging in everyday life—baths and meals, parties and hangs. Some of the messaging doesn’t quite land (“Just because a hand is clenched,/ doesn’t mean that it’s a fist,” feels at odds with an image about surprise gift giving), and a little of the parallel phrasing goes a long way, but the homespun homilies effectively communicate that everyone’s a complex being trying their best, that things move on—and that life can be alright, alright, alright. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Matthew Elblonk, DeFiore & Co. Illustrator’s agent: Jen Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)