cover image All by Himself?

All by Himself?

Elana K. Arnold, illus. by Giselle Potter. Beach Lane, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-8989-9

The eponymous “himself,” a white-presenting youth who proudly builds an elaborate block structure, doesn’t appear for the first half of this cumulative picture book. Instead, Arnold’s (Just Harriet) “The House that Jack Built”–tinged narrative and Potter’s (Sister Wish) watercolor and ink art—which has a stylized geometry and playful directness reminiscent of Grant Wood—introduce the people, portrayed with various skin tones, who make the child’s triumphant moment possible. First is the tree farmer who planted a seedling “years ago/ before the child was even born,” followed by an arborist and woodcutter; then it’s on to the studios of the woodcarver and artist who fashion the blocks, the truck driver who delivers them to the shop where the shopkeeper puts them up for display, and, finally, the grandmother who buys them. “Because of all this,/ today/ the child built a masterpiece.// ALL BY HIMSELF!” Lightly underscoring the message, the story then shifts into reverse, reviewing the work involved, and ending not with the farmer but rather, “of course.../ the tree itself.” With a measured tone and quiet beauty, the creators celebrate people’s interdependency, indebtedness to nature, and the importance of recognizing one’s support structures. Ages 3–8. Author’s agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. Illustrator’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)