A Year of Good News

Boxer. Apr. 2023. 112p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781914912498.
Gr 2-6–During the first year of the pandemic, when it felt like “doom and gloom and bad news had taken over the world,” Smatana sought out good news, and illustrated the stories he found with marvelous textile art (think Salley Mavor’s work in My Bed by Rebecca Bond). The stories are short, usually just one or two sentences on a page, with a facing illustration. A QR code at the end of the book takes interested readers to the original news sources. Smatana’s charming characters and scenes are made of fabric scraps, wool, felt, and ribbon. Many of the stories deal directly with the pandemic, but others focus on the environment, communication across borders and barriers, and the arts. The spirit of the book is similar to Sophie Blackall’s Things to Look Forward To, but more specific to the first pandemic year of 2020; many of the stories aren’t pure good news, but silver lining on bad news, as when “Australian firefighters dropped tons of fruit and vegetables from helicopters to the scorched earth to feed starving animals as devastating wildfires raged.” The idea of seeking out positive stories is lovely, but even some of these “good” stories are bleak for young readers.
VERDICT Unique, beautiful textile art is suitable for all ages, but the stories themselves are for an older audience. An additional purchase.

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