This little girl haunted my dreams one night several months ago. I saw this image by Shadra Strickland when she shared it on the Facebook account of our mutual friend Don Tate. I knew the girl had a longing for something. Off and on all night, I dreamed and woke with an urgency to find out what it was and help her out, a consequence of many years of being a mother and school teacher. The next morning I “borrowed” the picture and saved it to my computer so I would not forget to purchase Please, Louise when it came out.
A well-known writer (Toni Morrison) often is the reason for book sales, but in this case, it was the illustrator who drew me in. I have known and admired Shadra’s work as an illustrator since her Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator win for Bird. I got my book last week and checked out Louise’s longing. In typical childhood fashion, her imagination worked overtime creating fears as things she saw were projected into dangers. Shadra pictures Louise’s surroundings showing both the normal situation and the possibility that Louise’s fear is real. Was that a bird of prey or a golden eagle?
Louise didn’t need me after all for her solution. She found it at the library! On a double spread, Shadra takes Louise’s imagination to faraway places in the books she finds there with pirates, princesses, lion cubs, and dolphins. This reader slowed down to find all the intricacies of the beautiful art.
I loved Shadra’s final spread with Louise’s problem solved in a way that any bookworm will love. I can sleep well tonight with assurance that Louise is at peace and with gratitude for illustrators who make writer’s words come alive for young readers. In the meantime, Shadra’s work does not disappoint. I add her to my list of “Picture Book Illustrators to Watch For.”