Review: Maybe Something Beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful

The little urban public library branch in which I’m currently working isn’t exactly beautiful. The building is old and a bit tired, and until recently a lack of eye-catching signage meant that people often walked right by us without even realizing that we were here. Like Mira’s city in F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell’s Maybe Something Beautiful, our library’s exterior was drab and dreary, and in desperate need of something beautiful.

The addition of splashes of colour in the form of a vibrant outdoor mural, together with seasonal window paintings (from the wonderful local artist and library staffer Dawn Lo), has changed the face of our little space. These happy pops of colour, which were created by library staff, local residents, local artists, and community organizations, brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to our space, and rejuvenated our tired exterior.

Maybe Something Beautiful tells the story of Mira, a little girl who lives in a city that’s grey and dreary. She is an artist, with a heart that’s filled with colour, and she spreads art and joy throughout her community. Still, she wishes there was more she could do to help revitalize her community. When a mysterious muralist appears, he unleashes a creative whirlwind and inspires the community’s residents to come together and turn their homes into something beautiful.

What the story doesn’t touch on, but which might be worth mentioning when using this book with children, is that painting on random buildings in your community might create something beautiful, but might also be against the law. Public art is wonderful, but vandalizing public or private property isn’t very nice, and probably won’t win you many friends. While the creation of community artwork appears in the story as a spontaneous act, the authors’ note does mention that the event on which the story is based involved a lot of organizing, planning, teamwork and community engagement.

As you might expect from a picture book about creating art, the illustrations in Maybe Something Beautiful are fantastic. The changing colour schemes mirror the shifts experienced by the community, as a neutral palette of greys and browns explodes into a lively palette of colour and vibrancy. The illustrator is, in fact, the real-life artist upon whom the character of the muralist is based, and who helped inspire a public art revival in San Diego, California!

While not all children might get the opportunity to paint on buildings in their neighborhood, Maybe Something Beautiful is still an inspiring celebration of the power of artistic expression and community engagement in all its forms that everyone can relate to. Even the smallest acts of connecting and creating can inspire positivity and change, and we all have the power to make the world a more beautiful, joyful place.


#IMWAYR – July 4, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Happy Independence to all my Yankee friends! Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy holiday.

On the blog front, I’ve got a few exciting bits and pieces of news to share!

First off – I’m now a regular host for the incredible kids lit meme Diverse Kids Lit, which is an opportunity for kid lit bloggers to share diverse children’s lit! As a children’s librarian and co-chair of my local library association’s LGBTQ interest group, diversity is a subject that is very dear to my heart. I shared a powerful Canadian picture book as part of the linkup on Saturday,you can check it out here, and don’t forget to check out all the other great posts on the list.

Next up, I’m now an official Book Warrior! I’ve been a guest contributor to this amazing children’s literature blog for a few months now, and the fantastic ladies behind the site have invited me to become a fully-fledged member. I couldn’t be more excited – it’s like being invited to sit with the cool kids in the school cafeteria, except these cool kids are also incredibly smart and nice to boot. I’ll hopefully be posting fairly regularly over there, focusing mainly on picture books (of course), so check it out!!

Now, on to some of this week’s reads.

The Hangman’s Daughter

I read this historical mystery for my book club, and while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it either. To be honest, I found the whole thing pretty meh, and had to force myself to actually finish it (I’m a serial DNF-er).  I love historical fiction, and I’ve always been fascinated by Medieval Europe, so the story of a hangman and a young progressive physician who work together to solve a mystery and prevent the eruption of witch hunting mania sounded really promising. But the text is just kind of clunky. There’s a lot of “but what do X, Y and Z have to do with A?” dialogue, as if the author knows that the plot is getting overly complicated and is worried that the audience won’t be able to follow along. There characters aren’t particularly fleshed out, the inevitable romantic pairing isn’t all that romantic, and it’s just a lot of meh.

I did wonder if some of the clunkiness of the text might have to do with the fact that this is a novel in translation. Even the best translations risk losing some of the spark of the original language, and some expressions and cultural assumptions simply don’t translate easily.

Either way, it’s not a terrible book, but if you enjoy historical fiction set in Medieval Europe, I would recommend Ken Follet, Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory,  and many of the novels on this list instead.

Maybe Something Beautiful

Super Happy Magic Forest

Reviews coming this week!

Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year

What an inspiring article! Whether you’re a writer, artist, creator, athlete or job hunter, this article is a must-read. Putting yourself out there again and again can be terrifying (my job interview batting average is an unspeakable horror at the moment), but as the author explains, it’s only by actively courting rejection that you can ever hope to secure success.

Have a great week everybody!!