soup of the day: all the world by liz garton scanlon and marla frazee

“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” ~ William Blake (Auguries of Innocence, 1803).

“Finding Treasure” by paigek.

It’s time to grab our sand buckets and take a little stroll along the beach!

We can bask in the sun’s warmth and delight in the gentle ocean breeze. Friends, breathe deeply of the salty air, and make a mental note of September 8, 2009, the official publication date for All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee — because it’s not every day we are gifted with this particular brand of picture book perfection!

*busting my seams, bursting with joy, drowning in my big, big love for this book*

The first time I read All the World, it totally took my breath away. Though I’ve read many wonderful picture books this year that got me excited and won my everlasting enthusiasm, this one brought me to my knees. I thought, “Whoa. Now here’s a book that’s definitely in a class of its own. It takes excellence to a whole new level.” This rarely happens, but you know it when you see it — that timeless quality, the makings of a classic. And of course, you’re thinking, Caldecott.


In a mere 200 words, through lyrical rhyming couplets, Liz celebrates the big, wide world and all of humankind. She names the little and the large, the simple and profound, each carefully chosen word a luminous pearl in a pitch perfect string:

Rock, stone, pebble, sand
Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig, a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep.

She holds up for our observation and contemplation nothing less than the sea and sky, sun and rain, bees humming, plants growing, birds flying, children frolicking, music playing, people simply being together and relishing every moment. It seems simple on the surface, a way to live in this world, learning to love it up close and from far away. She has distilled the essence of a personal and global vision, a theme of harmony and interconnection shimmering through the beautiful cadence of her poetry. Each time you read the text, your heart beats anew, the earth shifts a little on its axis; you are invited to join in the joyous rhythm of life.

The best way I can describe the art in this book is to say that Marla Frazee took a pure melody and caressed it with full orchestration — warm, engaging, textural, lustrous. Her pencil and watercolor illustrations, a brilliant visual narrative, follows an interracial family of four from morning till night, as they build sandcastles and collect shells at the beach, buy flowers at a nearby farmer’s market, sail a boat in a pond, dodge a sudden rainstorm, enjoy supper in a cozy café, and then join family and friends for a rousing sing-a-long before going to bed.

This warm, welcoming world, small enough to traverse by red pickup, is also populated by characters representative of the world at-large: we see other families, couples, singles, young, old, a few ages in between, and people of many colors — some of whom appear in various spreads either by themselves or in interactions with the central family. Marla shifts her perspective to great effect, alternating between intimate vignettes of parent/child, person/animal, friend/friend, brother/sister, and expansive views depicting the grandeur of the planet. Spreads are ingeniously linked together; the corner of one vista becomes the focus of the next; everything and everyone is part of the circle of humanity. And if that wasn’t enough, Marla hand-lettered the entire text; words tilt and sway, rise and fall, posturing themselves with a life and personality all their own.

The café in the book, where soup and muffins are consumed, was based on the Phantom Ranch Cantina, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (photo by Irwin3637).

Marla says this was a deeply personal work; most of the objects hold special meaning, such as the mulberry tree her grandfather planted, the beach ball left out in the rain, her own orange Honda Fit with her dog, Rocket, in the front seat leaving the farmer’s market.

Together, Liz and Marla have created a work that stands alone in its ability to amaze and inspire. It represents the perfect marriage of words and art. It leaves the reader feeling whole, appreciative of what is sacred in the everyday, and uplifted by the knowledge that his/her place in the world, however small, does indeed count for something. Quite simply, All the World is all you’d ever want in a picture book, more than you could have ever dreamed. As Kelly Fineman put it, “it’s a work of epic beauty inside a picture book package.”

photo by paigek.

The accolades have been flooding in: four *starred reviews* thus far from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, and Kirkus. Horn Book has compared Liz’s text to the work of Margaret Wise Brown, Kirkus calls the book, “At once a lullaby and an invigorating love song of nature, families, and interconnectedness,” and School Library Journal deemed it “perfection.” All the World is also in the Autumn 2009 Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten. A perfect read aloud, appropriate for all ages, of course I give it my highest FIVE SPOON RATING!

I hope you still have your beach gear on, because now it’s time to dive into our special bowl of celebration soup. Please indulge in whatever suits your fancy — backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle. If the spirit moves you, dog paddle or snorkel! Just make sure you come up for air long enough to shout your congratulations to Liz and Marla!

Today’s Special: Hungry Tummy Soup (seasoned liberally with hope, peace, love and trust. Delicious hot or cold).

To go with your soup, please have a muffin (just like in the book):

photo by music pb.

Of course I haven’t forgotten dessert. Help yourself to a seashell, starfish or sand dollar cookie:

photo by cookieartisan.

By now, you know the drill: hightail it to your nearest indie or order your copy online. This is one book you’ll want a First Edition, First Printing of, so be quick about it! ☺

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥



Liz Garton Scanlon official website (with a link to the best Curriculum Guide I’ve ever seen)! Liz’s Live Journal blog, Liz in Ink, can be found here.

Marla Frazee official website.

Simon & Schuster “Behind the Book” page for All the World, featuring Liz and Marla’s notes about working on this book.

Online Reviews:

Reading Rumpus
Richie Partington at Library Thing
Through the Looking Glass

photo by carramled.

*Spreads posted by permission of publisher, Text copyright © 2009 Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrations © 2009 Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, 2009). All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “soup of the day: all the world by liz garton scanlon and marla frazee

  1. Brilliantly well-done, Jama. I am nervous about the thick blue soup, but otherwise I heartily applaud absolutely everything about this post.

    I know it was difficult to write – I’m still trying to find a way to actually talk about it (but I’m glad you liked my short line – it may be the only thing I can come up with!), and I’m truly considering saying “I second what Jama said.” Love the Blake quote to start things off. You are a marvel, my friend.


  2. Fear not the blue soup (it’s delicious vanilla pudding)! Somehow using tomato reminded me of the Red Sea :D.

    Geez. I’m still thinking I didn’t come close to “describing” all this book is. It’s impossible. I look forward to reading your post!


  3. So, you and I are thinking alike today, though I actually didn’t figure out today was the *actual* book launch day till I was typing it up. I’m just puh-sychic, I guess.

    I agree with you on this book. It makes me think Caldecott, too. It’s wonderful.



  4. “Marla Frazee took a pure melody and caressed it with full orchestration — warm, engaging, textural, lustrous.” Oh, yes, that’s it exactly.

    What a wide and deep day it is…


  5. Gulp.

    Jama… I’m at a loss for words.

    And it’s not just because my mouth is full of blue pudding, I mean, soup. I’m just thinking I must have done something very good in my earlier incarnations to be treated this beautifully today.

    I have to go get a sweater now because you’ve given me chills all over…

    Thank you — and thank you Anne Marie, Jeannine, Kelly, Kelly, Kathy, Amber, Jules and Sara, for saying what you said.

    Counting blessings… Liz


  6. We’ve YOU to thank, as well as Marla and Liz, for this work of sheer beauty. So pure and radiant!

    BTW, the photo of you in the Curriculum Guide is gorgeous!! 🙂


  7. Tanita Says 🙂

    I just got my copy today, and I can’t express the tactile experience of having a new picture book, of rubbing my hand across the slick cover, and seeing all the gorgeous, hopeful, peaceful words and pictures I’ve heard so much about. As a Book Aunt, this is a treasure I know I’ll enjoy sharing. What a lovely, celebratory post!


  8. As always, a deliciously beautiful post. I love “each carefully chosen word a luminous pearl in a pitch perfect string.”

    I need one of those amazing cookies, a cup of tea, and to curl up in a comfy chair with this book. William and I are off to the local indy after school. I’m hoping I’ll find a copy there.

    Thanks for the mighty fine review. You are amazing!


  9. Thanks, Tammi. As I was telling Kelly F. the other day, this was the hardest review I’ve ever written, because my love for the book was so much bigger than my little brain could express.


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