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Gathering Sparks

Overview

A grandfather lovingly teaches his grandchild a lesson about the centuries-old concept of tikkun olam. Gently told and gorgeously illustrated, this intergenerational picture book offers a soothing and universal message for our troubled times.

Winner of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for Younger Readers

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Overview

A grandfather lovingly teaches his grandchild a lesson about the centuries-old concept of tikkun olam. Gently told and gorgeously illustrated, this intergenerational picture book offers a soothing and universal message for our troubled times.

Winner of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for Younger Readers

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The team behind Before You Were Born explains the traditional Jewish concept of tikkun olam (the repair of the world), imagining a dialogue between a grandfather and granddaughter, using a distinctive second-person voice. Swarner pictures grandfather and granddaughter gazing up at the star-spangled sky on a summer night (“Long, long ago... God sent forth ten vessels, like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of light”). The ships, the grandfather explains, whose arrival would have made the world perfect, fall to pieces, leaving fragments of light for humans to gather so the vessels can be reassembled and the world put at peace. “And you asked, ‘But how can the sparks be gathered?’ And your grandfather said, ‘For every good deed you do, one of those hidden sparks rises up and a little bit of the world is repaired.’ ” There are many good things children can do to gather sparks, but loving someone, says the grandfather, is the very best. It’s theology that even the youngest can understand; Schwartz’s lulling voice and Swarner’s gentle illustrations make it seem easy and infinitely worth doing. Ages 3-8. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"The second-person free-verse text is complemented by dreamy, nature-filled mixed-media paintings in smudgy purple, blue and green hues that extend the theme that all are responsible, in whatever small way, for creating and maintaining a peaceful world." Kirkus Reviews

 

"This is a handsome book with a timeless message." School Library Journal

"A quietly lovely picture book from the author and illustrator of Before You Were Born (2005)."Booklist

"There are many good things children can do to gather sparks, but loving someone, says the grandfather, is the very best. It’s theology that even the youngest can understand; Schwartz’s lulling voice and Swarner’s gentle illustrations make it seem easy and infinitely worth doing."

Publishers Weekly

Children's Literature - Della A. Yannuzzi
How many children have gazed into a night time sky and asked an adult "Where did all the stars come from?" In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a grandfather takes a child out for a walk on a star-filled night. Based on a Jewish idea that good deeds help to make the world a better place, the author tells a simple, but inspiring tale about ten vessels carrying its own cargo of lights, like the stars that sparkle in the skies. The vessels were traveling a long distance and the further they went, the more fragile they became. Finally, they burst, sending their sparks of light out into the heavens and to many other places where they had to be gathered. Whenever someone did a good deed, a spark was set free. The grandfather then explained to the child that a good deed can be helping a baby sister, or being kind to animals. In time, all those good deeds will send those sparks back into the heavens to repair the broken vessels. Most importantly, sparks are gathered whenever a person shows love to someone. This is a gentle story with soothing illustrations, perfect for bedtime reading or during a special time spent with loved ones. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi
School Library Journal
Gr 3—Schwartz and Swarner have created another beautiful picture book based on Jewish folklore. The narration begins when "you" ask "your grandfather" about the origin of the stars. He responds that before people were created, God sent ships carrying light sailing across the sky. These fragile vessels broke apart, scattering their precious cargo across the Earth and sky. It is the job of the human race to gather the "sparks of light" and restore them to their proper place by doing acts of kindness and love. An endnote explains that the story is based on a Jewish myth, and although the author refers to "God," there is no reference in the story to a specific religion. Schwartz's language is simple, personal, and poetic, and his use of the second person adds a sense of intimacy. The text is printed in a large attractive font on top of the full-spread, full-color illustrations, sometimes black on light, sometimes white on dark. Swarner's stylized, painterly artwork is soft and gentle and complements the peaceful mood of the text. The rich, textured greens of the grass and trees and the deep speckled blues of the sky contrast with the soft radiance of the child's and grandfather's faces. This is a handsome book with a timeless message.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596432802
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 534,387
  • Age range: 3 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Schwartz is the author of Before You Were Born and several other books. His books have won numerous awards, including the National Jewish Book Award and the Sydney Taylor Book Award. A professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis as well as a noted folklorist and poet, Howard lives in St. Louis, MO.

Kristina Swarner has illustrated numerous books for young readers including Before You Were Born by Howard Schwartz. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Kristina lives in Chicago, IL.

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