The Odd Marriage of P.J. Lynch

When a children’s book has an excellent story and poor illustrations or a poor story and excellent illustrations… I call this an odd marriage. It really can ruin the overall effect for readers; I’d rather have not read those delightful words only to have an ugly picture of them put in my brain. Or I’d rather not see those exquisite drawings paired up to such lame text… what a waste!

In this vein, I present to you a book published this year called No One But Youby Douglas Wood. I grabbed the book at the library because I was attracted to the artwork and thought I might recognize it, and indeed P.J. Lynch does not disappoint! Lynch is the artist behind many other books, some of which I love very much, including the excellent Christmas stories:The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomeyand The Gift of the Magi… not to mention the classic (though obviously intended for slightly older readers) A Christmas Carol.

In No One But You, Lynch’s work is superb. You can see the canvas and the realism in each page and the perspective with which he paints is a treat also. Use the “Look Inside Book” feature on amazon to get a taste of what I mean. The disappointing part is that he’s paired up with a text that is pure cotton candy. It offers no substance. Now, many people are great fans of books which aren’t really “stories” insomuch as they are esteem boosters for children… think of Sam McBratney books for a good example of what I mean. Of course, there is nothing wrong with books that tell children how loved they are and how special they are, but let’s be clear: these aren’t story books. And quite often, these are books parents love more than kids and these types are especially given as gifts… as if they are an extended greeting card trying to express what a parent wishes he or she could say. I rant on this topic in slightly more depth here.

So, may it be it known, I am not a fan of such books. I usually find them dull and patronizing. No One But You is such a book. Like McBratney’s books, it’ll probably get very high reviews as more people read it. And I’m not going to be a total curmudgeon and say it’s worthless; it just leaves so much to be desired for me by way of wishing those beautiful, beautiful illustrations were paired with as striking of a story as Jonathan Toomeyfor example. (Incidentally, we just borrowed the film version of this book from the library and were pleasantly surprised at how well done it was for a family movie.) Instead the text that matches the page in the above image is this: “Only one person can notice the hum of a bumblebee on a lazy afternoon as he buzzes past your ear on his way to a clover patch, and that someone is no one but you.” Meh. The words are lovely, sure. But the whole book is variations of this: “No one but you can feel the rain kiss your skin or the wind ruffle your hair. And no one but you can walk through a rain puddle in your bare feet.”
It makes me wonder Well, why not anyone else but me? Other people can feel the rain and walk through puddles too… but I suspect I’m over thinking what Douglas Wood is trying to get across. Lastly, I’ve noticed that Candlewick Press publishes a lot of feel-good books like this. A lot. In fact, if I see that a children’s book is produced by this publisher, I already have an idea of what to expect. I’m not totally prejudiced here, I’m just saying it’s a trend I’ve noticed. But a publisher is, after all, in the business of making money… not necessarily producing excellent literature. And it’s clear that there is a market for books of the “You Are Special!” breed.
So, if you like these feel-good, non-substantial books, No One But You would be an excellent choice. It’ll make a great gift after all! But if you want the whole enchilada of goodness, seek out P.J Lynch’s other works.