This book has been on the top of my review drafts for a couple weeks now because I am desperately in love with it. While I love picture books and I frequently compare choosing a favorite to the impossibility of choosing a favorite star, occasionally a book will cross my path and completely steal my heart. This is one of them.
Already being a devoted fan of Sara O’Leary and especially Julie Morstad’s work, I frantically jotted this title down the second I heard faint whispers about it coming out. Both creators are Canadian, so it is not always easy to get my hands on their works. Thankfully, bookstores in the US are realizing the power of these picture books and Sadie came out in every independent bookstore I checked (a perk of NYC perhaps).
So, sit down and get ready for me to gush. Or just stop reading now and go buy the book already. That cover alone should scream to you how incredibly stunning this book is in concept and delivery. (And be sure to peek underneath the dust jacket. It will make you smile.) Join me in drooling over This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad, 2015.
The opening line of a book is a very crucial thing. Rarely do authors get it perfectly. It must be memorable, clever, pithy, or have some other spectacular characteristic. Well here, author and illustrator have worked together brilliantly to create a picture book opening worthy of a medal. It is captivating. It draws you in immediately, forcing you to become part of the book as more than a reader, but also as an active listener. With this opening spread, you meet Sadie, you meet the tone of the book, and you meet Sadie’s imagination. Welcome to This is Sadie.
Sadie is a girl with spunk, creativity, imagination, and knowledge. In her book, we hear of her projects. We see her style and her skills. We meet her friends, the literary ones at least, and we find out the kind of adventures she goes on.
Sadie is strong and unique. She is captivated by stories, but she doesn’t settle with only identifying with the main character. She can find herself in any story, breaking rules and stereotypes as needed without a second thought. She’ll gladly be the heroine one day, but will also empathize with the crazy Mad Hatter the next. And she even breaks the fourth wall, a typical relationship barrier in books, by looking directly at you, the reader. She means it when she wants you to read her book and really know “This is Sadie.” She’ll look into your soul as you look into hers.
Sadie is vulnerable, sharing even her deepest secrets, like having wings. No one can see them, and many probably doubt; but Sadie is also confident. She knows herself and that her imagination truly gives her wings to carry her away and bring her safely home.
I have a terribly difficult time putting into words exactly what it is that I adore about Sadie. All of the things above, of course, and the fact that I was so awestruck upon my first read-through that I immediately sat down and opened it again to read through very slowly. And perhaps it is that my daughter requested 4 consecutive reads the first time before sighing with satisfaction. Something in Sadie speaks to us all. Sadie is enchanting. Sadie is unafraid in her opinions and her choices. She is what every child, and honestly, every human, longs to be: known. And confident in it.
Sara O’Leary is a spectacular author, who just keeps getting better despite it seeming impossible. She nails it with phrasing. She edits well. And she delivers a wholly satisfying piece.
Then here, you get the double thrill of Julie Morstad’s art. Morstad is in a league of her own in my opinion. She gets patterns and simplicity. Her details are sparse and yet perfect. And her color palettes are a breath of fresh air. I would live a Julie Morstad illustrated life if possible.
Run to your local bookstore and demand this book be plentiful on shelves. Buy it for any child’s upcoming birthday. Tell the library to add it to the catalog. Sadie is a joy to read and she unlocks thoughts, imagination, and creativity in everyone she encounters. This is Sadie.
p.s. Also check out This is Sadie‘s activity kit with printable banner and fox mask! For even more fun ideas, visit Sadie’s Tumblr and see more great mask ideas from one of my favorite bloggers, This Picture Book Life.