It’s no secret I think picture books are magic. They are these paradoxically simple, yet complex works of literature that combine art and storytelling, and we give them to children because something about them innately engages kids in exploring beauty and truth on their level. Sometimes these “children’s” books – the special ones – even speak to me as a grown up. Of course, there are picture books I love that Bonnie and Margaret couldn’t care less about (and vice versa if we’re being real honest about how I feel reading some books over and over). So when a picture book is meaningful to me AND my daughters, well, then I think you have some real magic.
I’m sharing a brand new book released just TODAY that does just that. Claudia and Moth is the second picture book written and illustrated by the very talented Jennifer Hansen Rolli. We received a free review copy from Viking (thank you, Viking!) and much to my surprise, a quote from my review of Rolli’s first book Just One More is right on the back under School Library Journal! You can read that review here.
Like Ruby in Just One More, Claudia is a dynamic, yet relatable character that Rolli develops through the special details of her warm, beautiful illustrations. The pages have the textured background of brown Kraft paper, which I think anchors the text to the handcrafted spirit of Rolli’s dazzling oil paintings.
Bonnie instantly connected with Claudia’s creativity, curiosity, and love of nature. The leafy haired Claudia is captivated by the butterflies she sees at the park every day. Donning her floppy sun hat, magnifying glass, and bug net, she chases, studies, and admires the creatures and always asks to take one home. Her mom always replies, “No, it wouldn’t be right.” In a wise move of redirection, Claudia’s dad gives her a special paint box, and encourages her to capture the beauty of the butterflies in her paintings and take the paintings home instead. Claudia discovers she is quite a talented painter – so good she gains a little audience at the city park around her easel and fills her bedroom walls with a wallpaper of butterfly paintings. When we read this book aloud, we like to stop and talk about all the paintings on Claudia’s walls – the colors, the different perspectives, and which we like best (Bonnie always picks the purple). There are lovely little details in Claudia’s room, too, including some quiet little foreshadowing moths fluttering around the streetlamp outside an open window.
But “the summer ended, as summers do,” and all the butterflies leave for the winter. Claudia’s inspiration to paint seems to fly away with them, and she puts her paints away under her bed. Stomping footprint butterflies in the winter white snow, sad Claudia feels like winter leaves “nothing left to paint.” Then one very cold day, as she hunts for her warmest sweater, out from her drawer flutters a sweater nibbling moth.
With excitement, and a pang of guilt, Claudia decides to paint the white moth into a colorful butterfly. But the moth doesn’t stay still for long. Chaos ensues as the moth wreaks havoc in her room, flitting toward the window and her bedroom lamp. This is Bonnie’s favorite page, of course – full of pings and pangs and all kinds of fun sound words. As the streetlight flickers on, the moth begins again to flit against the window, and accidentally escapes when Claudia opens it.
Rushing outside to find her moth, Claudia has a beautiful turning moment of realization. “The city was never so quiet, and the snow was never so endless.” Unable to tell a snowflake from the moth, she sees winter for the first time through the lens of wonder and beauty. Finally the wet, paint smudged moth lands back in her mittens, and she is able to see his true beauty for the creature he really is, too. She rushes him inside to dry, and in the end paints a winter portrait of the moth for her wall to help her always remember him.
Even as a grown up, I identified so much with Claudia. I sometimes need a moth to help me rediscover my inspiration in new seasons where I find myself. Sometimes we all need a gentle push to reignite our sense of wonder, and a friend to point us to the light, remind us who we are and what we are meant to do. I love that, without being didactic, this book teaches that creativity is a positive way to deal with change, to work through complex emotions, and to steward the beauty of the world around us.
Check out the book trailer below, and order a copy of Claudia and Moth from Starline Books here. Maybe tuck it away under the Christmas Tree! It is a cozy winter read, and I think it would make the perfect gift for a budding artist.
A big thank you to Jenny for sending Bonnie a beautiful package with a special handmade moth finger puppet, stickers, bookmarks, a watercolor palette and Claudia and Moth painting sheets. It made her feel so special and inspired her creativity! Please keep writing and illustrating beautiful books!