Review: What I Like Most By Murphy & Cheng-Liang

Welcome 2021! I could make excuses for the silence in this space through 10 months of last year; but I think we all know what happened in 2020. Instead I am starting off the year with one of my favorite books from last year, an ode to celebrating our favorite things and focusing on what means the most to us – big and small. Have a look at this charming book: What I Like Most by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang, 2019 (published in the U.S. in 2020).

The story opens with a child telling the reader about their window, which they like most in the world. She describes what she can see out of it, what she can draw on it with her breath and why she likes it most. And then you turn the page and she realizes she likes apricot jam most in the world. She tells you about her grandmother who makes it and how she treasures it to the last bit in the jar. It is what she likes most in the world, except…

And so the clever text delights with page turn after page turn. We are led through the book and the long list of her favorites in the world. They are big things and little things. They span the five senses. They are hers or experienced by her. (Worth noting, but I dare not give away anything specific: this book would make a fantastic mother’s day gift!)

I adore the rhythm and tone of the text. It is not perfectly planned and expressed, like an adult would share, but it leads us through just like a child most likely would, in a very surprised and stream of conscious way.

I am absolutely delighted by the illustrations in this book. Zhu Cheng-Liang has a lovely, loose painting style and it is dripping with charm. It almost feels childish, but then you look longer and closer and realize how brilliant each illustration is. I love the subtle pencil lines, the watercolor washes that occasionally stray outside their boundaries, and the palette that somehow feels muted and bright at the same time. (Keep an eye out for an Easter egg illustration of Cheng-Liang’s other picture book!)

I love this book as it makes me think about what I like most in the world. And it surprises me with the simplicity, yet depth of each answer. In a world that feels chaotic and ever-changing and unsure at the moment, what I like most in the world is books like this that help me find joy and gratitude in the many things around me.

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