The wait is over. The book, A Little More Beautiful is out!
No publisher would take it. So she began her own publishing company. Sarah Mackenzie, who founded and runs Read-Aloud Revival, an expert in what makes a picture book a work of art, is now a published author. A Little More Beautiful began arriving at houses in March.
Seven months ago they set a goal to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter to fund the project. Within hours it passed $100,000 and by the time the window closed raised $200,000 towards published.
Now the book is out with another book by Waxwing publishers in the works. Waxwing is a boutique publishing company, meaning the team will publish a small number of, I gather, remarkable books if this first book is any indication.
A Little More Beautiful does everything Mackenzie has prized a good read-aloud picture book for.
It clearly grounds the reader in a sense of place and time with a remarkably minimal amount of words with the same clarity as Virginia Lee Burton, in The Little House.
It uses the poetic repetition that makes excellent read-aloud picture books so delicious with the same ear as Robert McCloskey, in Burt Dow, Deep Water Man or Make Way for Ducklings.
A Little More Beautiful moves perfectly from storytelling with words, introducing readers to place and characters, before shifting to storytelling with pictures, actively engaging the reader’s imagination. The reader sees the story unfold, like Mac Barnett, particularly in Sam and Dave Dig A Hole. And for the finale, she deftly brings the reader back to just enough words, with the imagination fully engaged, holding the weight of what those words mean throughout the story.
Mackenzie did not just set out to write a good book.
Knowing that when all the pieces of a picture book work together, we sink into the whole experience. Children’s literature is an art unto itself.
Like Mac Barnett, she uses the size and shape and layout of the book to emphasize the story. Mackenzie did not do this alone but hired book designer Cara Llewellyn to lay out the words and pages in their artful attire.
Breezy Brookshire illustrated A Little More Beautiful in soft watercolors. The beauty is breathtaking. It’s no wonder they offered these as art prints in the bonus purchases on Kickstarter.
But as much as Mackenzie takes the absolute best of children’s literature techniques to craft the story, there is something much deeper here.
The theme of A Little More Beautiful tells the story of the need to be connected. We are interpersonal beings and need relationships. We can connect through books, as Mackenzie has done with thousands of people in her podcast and community of read-aloud revival premium members. Mackenzie teaches that the love of literature is often born in the connection of occurs in the shared experience of reading aloud.
Yet, we connect over all different kinds of mediums. We see this bond in the two main characters of A Little More Beautiful. She also connects with Lou Alice in a shared love of flowers. We influence each other from afar.
The material good we bring about is good, but it is not enough.
Something is missing if we do not have relationships.
How many of us have left a place and been forgotten about, or feared that would be the case? What will our legacy be without social media to capture it or something concrete to show us?
That will not complete us, and the world would be lacking something if we stopped there. If we stopped at the human connection and left those who have lost the ability to live independently, who are too often seen as burdens on society or their family. It isn’t so.
I think back to the conversations I had with Cindy Morphy in August last year during National Night Out. “It’s okay for any of us when you see neighbors that you talk to them, but you also need to say, where is the neighbor that’s not here? I think we need to make neighbors aware of neighbors and who’s missing and how we can help those there might need love. We need to know our neighbors,” Morphy said.
Not every story needs to moralize.
Mackenzie shows and does not tell us the good we can do when we remember one another, and when we act on that impulse to give. The little girl in the story, breezes through the book with the vitality of youth, bursting in with a gift of love. She is innocent and good, not inhibited by the message too many in our world receive, “don’t worry about it, let someone else take care of it.” The book reminds us that no, you have a gift to give. You are needed. And you can make the world a little more beautiful.