Title: A New Day
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: The one and only Dan Santat!
Published By: Dial Books, 2021
Before the review, first a disclaimer:
I know I review a LOT of Dan Santat’s work on here, and maybe I should just rename the whole blog “Jess Reviews a Dan Santat Book,” but I couldn’t very well NOT review his latest picture book, right?
So I’m going to!
I saw A New Day was out. (I think I read about it on Twitter. )(Slight side note: I follow a whole ton of artists/illustrators/publishers on Twitter, but have fewer than 30 followers myself. BUT within that group, I have several well-known artist/illustrators following me. So that’s nice!) As soon as I know about a Dan Santat creation, I must own it. So I ordered it (and a few other books so it wouldn’t be lonely in transit).
And then it arrived (cue the chorus of angels).
There are several things I really love about this book. But I want to talk at length about the most significant one: it doesn’t follow ANY of the ‘well-known’ picture book writing conventions. Which are:
- Your manuscript must be no more than 32 pages long or your book will explode. Amazon pegs this one at 48 pages. 48 glorious pages in which to tell a story. (More angels singing).
- Less is more. Write less, kids will like it more. Now, look, there are TONS of picture books where minimal text works really well. It just always bugs me (as a soon-to-be published author) that you’re expected to tell your story in the tightest way possible. This book does NOT do that, and that’s refreshing.
- Look and see what other books are on the market that are like your book. And DON’T say yours is unique, because there’s got to be SOMETHING like it out there. Okay, but what if mine IS unique? Like, say, A New Day? I’ve never read anything like this, and I’m not sure what you might compare it to. A LOT of publishers/agents want you to tell them what your book resembles in your cover letter, but what if it REALLY is one-of-a-kind?
- Don’t have too many characters. Kids can’t keep track of a big cast. This book has seven main characters and a TON of side characters. There are always a LOT of people/animals/personified days of the week on each page.
- Make sure the vocabulary and concept are young enough for your audience. Well, sure. But also, this book talks about Sanskrit, Elbridge Gerry, and herrings. So…maybe this rule doesn’t really count either.
I think the fact that Brad Meltzer literally broke ALL the rules for this book makes me like it even more. Sometimes (again, as a writer speaking here), I get a little down when it comes to trimming ALL of the flowery language from a manuscript. I get that picture books are more poetry than prose (generally), but sometimes (just sometimes) the cuts feel too deep. It feels like whoever edited this book just let Brad Meltzer WRITE. Yay!
So what’s it about? Okay, here’s a quick overview:
Sunday is tired of being taken for granted, so she quits. Then the days of the week have to replace her by auditioning others to be the new day.
The new days that audition run the gamut from “Fun Day” all the way to “FirepolesSlidingIntoPoolsofCottonCandyDay.” The book builds from simple ideas all the way to a fever pitch of auditions. Then, just when it seems no day will be suitable (though Lily was quite partial to “Caturday”), Sunday gets thanked and returns to work.
Whew. That was a close one.
The writing is funny and silly and the pictures are, well, perfection of course.
Of course, Dan Santat could illustrate a refrigerator repair booklet and I’d review it and love it, so…you know, I’m a bit biased.
If you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, keep them laughing and break up the monotony of this ongoing nightmare of a pandemic, please get this book. You will giggle at the absurdity, laugh at the weirdness and, just for a moment, forget what’s happening in the world outside.
Mama’s review: 5 cotton candy pools/5
Lily’s review: Every day is Caturday!