Adult Books Contours of Love Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Loving Life’s Smallness And Growth (and the Wilderness in Between) in Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel’s “LIFE”

Loving Life's Smallness And Growth (and the Wilderness in Between) in Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel's "LIFE"

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Admittedly, I am not too certain whether this can be technically classified as a nonfiction picturebook. However, I am going out on a limb here by claiming that it is – as it celebrates what it means to be alive, loving the world we live in, through an inspirational story featuring the cycle of life. This would resonate not just with young readers but also adults who may be in a period of transition in their lives.


Written by Cynthia Rylant Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
Published by Beach Lane Books (2017)
ISBN-10: 1481451626
ISBN-13: 9781481451628
Borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I borrowed this book from the library for quite awhile now, but it ended up being buried among the stacks of other brighter, louder, more colourful books. It was only as I was struggling which book to feature for Nonfiction Wednesday that I finally decided on giving this one a go.

The story begins simply enough with just these three words: “Life begins small.” Even huge animals such as elephants begin as a small, wee-thing. Then the reader is gradually led to see just how life grows.

The lines above show just how perfect this book is for our current reading theme on Contours Of Love: What do you love about life? Indeed, fellow bibliophiles – what is about life that you truly love?

Each of the animals, as can be seen above, have something about life that they truly love. This can even be extended further by a sensitive adult reader by asking a young child what they think a fish loves, or the dolphin, or the flower, or their father – and so on.

Then the narrative turns:

I have read so many rave reviews about this picturebook, and they are all well-deserved. This is because in such sparse, perfectly-distilled sentences, Rylant manages to pack such an emotional wallop that it leaves the adult reader somewhat winded by its utter simplicity and staggering beauty.

The narrative prepares the reader for the inevitability that life will sometimes hurt – that there will be wilderness in between – a field of nothingness. But then again, the wilderness ends.

Then there is the gentle reminder of things that make life worth living despite the enclosing darkness all around, and the book ends where it begins – the smallness, the growth – and the wilderness in between, and yes: love love love.

This is a beauty: a book that you should gift to the one you treasure most in this world.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: US (Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel are from the US.)

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Loving Life’s Smallness And Growth (and the Wilderness in Between) in Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel’s “LIFE”

  1. Karen Eastlund

    Myra: Thank you so much for this review. I always love Cynthia Rylant, but I might have missed this one without your review. I think it goes on the To Buy list immediately. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a treasure of a book, I agree. I bought it for the granddaughters! Thanks, Myra.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this blend of nonfiction and fiction, it’s such a beautiful way to make giant concepts accessible for young readers in a loving and gentle way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. annettepimentel

    What a beautiful book! I had missed it, too. Thanks for the highlight.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. I’m already breathtaken. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The is great to pair with Virginia Lee Burton’s Life Story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Round Up of My Literary Journey and My Best in Books Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: