by David McPhail

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ONE POWERFUL WORD Standing up to bullies of all kinds in a poignant tale.

The word "No" repeated three times is the only thing said in this otherwise wordless book that speaks volumes. A young boy sets out to deliver a letter and witnesses acts of war along his way, both on the personal level, and on a world-wide scale. At a time when our country is at war, NO!

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ONE POWERFUL WORD Standing up to bullies of all kinds in a poignant tale.

The word "No" repeated three times is the only thing said in this otherwise wordless book that speaks volumes. A young boy sets out to deliver a letter and witnesses acts of war along his way, both on the personal level, and on a world-wide scale. At a time when our country is at war, NO! is a touching example of resistance and alternatives to conflict told through heart-wrenching illustrations from David McPhail at his very best.

Editorial Reviews

Except for the occasional use of the title word, this clear beautiful picture-book fable is without text . . . . McPhail's rich watercolors, with detailed ink crosshatching, have a yesteryear feel.
Richie's Picks
In a picture book with exactly three words of dialogue — the same two-letter word repeated three times — David McPhail's young character causes the world to do a one-eighty through his assertive use of the word 'NO!'.
Publishers Weekly

In this dark, nearly wordless allegory, the power of a single word ripples outward, stopping a bully, an army, a war. As a small boy walks along a row of houses, a squadron of warplanes bombs buildings in the distance, a tank blows up one house and soldiers force their way into another, terrifying a family. The boy continues down the street, off to mail a letter (the final spread reveals its contents: "Dear President, At my school we have rules. NO pushing NO punching. Do you have any rules?"). But when an older boy threatens him, the boy's sense of justice crystallizes in an instant, and he yells, "NO!" His act of resistance sparks immediate change: the bully has a change of heart, soldiers bring the family presents and a bicycle for the boy and the bully parachutes down from one of the bombers. McPhail's (When Sheep Sleep) delicately tinted crosshatching gives poignancy to the violence the boy witnesses without minimizing it. The idea of taking effective action without fighting is a powerful one, and children and adults alike will find that McPhail's images linger. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

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Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"No" is the only word in this otherwise wordless story, except for the letter written to the president by a young boy shown before the title page, then licked and stamped by him on the title double-page spread. As he sets out, letter in hand, he sees planes with bombs flying overhead. A fiery explosion appears on the hill behind him. Tanks and soldiers arrive; soldiers break into a home; a policeman and a fierce dog chase an old man. When the boy is menaced by an older boy at the mailbox, he just says, and repeats, "No!" to the other boy's surprise. Mailing his letter, he walks away, followed by the other boy. He is pleasantly surprised to see the old man sitting comfortably with the policeman. The soldiers are giving presents to the family in the home. The older boy even returns the boy's lost hat. From an airplane, a parachute delivers a bicycle for the two boys to ride together. At the end, we read the letter. It lists the rules against pushing and punching at his school. Putting this together with the boy's stance against violence reveals the author's attempt to end bullying. There is a visual stillness to the sketchy naturalistic scenes of empty streets, cloudless sky, and line of buildings. The "No!" of our stalwart hero seems to break a spell, allowing the humanistic ending and perhaps inspiring others to stand up against evil. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
McPhail's all but wordless picture book is actually an eloquent statement about the power of words. A small boy is shown writing a letter to the president; as he sets off to mail it, fighter planes fly overhead, menacing tanks roll by, nearby buildings burst into flames, and faceless soldiers attack civilians. Undaunted, or perhaps daunted but undeterred, the boy continues to walk to the mailbox, where a sneering bully knocks off his hat and blocks his way. "No!" says the boy. "No?" asks the incredulous bully, obviously perplexed by this response. "No!" shouts the boy, and with those three words, the only three words in the book, everything in the boy's world changes. He mails his letter. As he walks home, the soldiers have kindly faces and offer gifts; the tanks pull plows across soft green hills; the bully returns the boy's hat; the fighter planes drop not bombs, but a bicycle for the boys, now friends, to ride together, off into a new era of peace and mutual understanding. Can one child's one-word resistance to evil change the entire universe? McPhail invites us to speculate what would happen if we did simply refuse to cooperate with aggression and violence, if we did simply, each one of us, here and now, utter our own direct and powerful NO to war, oppression, and bullying and join this small but mighty book in saying YES to the life-affirming alternatives. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4

NO! follows a young boy on a formidable walk to mail a letter he has written. It is only through his journey that readers become conscious of the fact that a war is raging throughout the town. Faceless soldiers march past while tanks rumble down the road tearing through buildings. Narrowly missing the violence all around him, he reaches his destination and is blocked from posting his letter by a bully. It is only when the boy says, "NO!" and refuses to be intimidated that the course of events changes. The war vehicles that were obliterating the city are now dropping presents for the boys and girls from the sky. The last page shows the letter that the boy wrote: "Dear President, at my school we have rules. NO PUSHING, NO PUNCHING. Do you have any rules?" McPhail's delicate watercolor and pencil illustrations bring the understated story to life. Not only introducing a tough topic to a young crowd, this profound narrative also demonstrates the importance of taking a stand and the power of one voice.-Adrienne Wilson, Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, Monroe, CT

Kirkus Reviews
An oddly didactic fable from a benign source. A small boy sets off to mail a letter. As he walks he passes airplanes bombing homes, tanks attacking buildings and soldiers abusing the public. At the mailbox a bigger boy makes to beat up our hero, but is set back a piece when the boy yells a definitive "No!"-the only word of dialogue in this tale. As the boy walks back, he and readers observe that the soldiers are friendly, the tank has become a plow and the planes drop bicycles not bombs. Finally readers see that the boy's letter was to the president: After listing his school's rules ("NO PUSHING / NO PUNCHING") it ends, "Do you have any rules?" The general idea is that if one says "No!" to bullies, rather than just saying nothing, the world becomes a better place. This message is clear, though the packaging is not, as the early violence doesn't sit well with the later idyllic scenes of peace and harmony. Certainly some adults will find this pseudo-Sendakian tale moving, but the message is wrapped in a self-righteous format that doesn't work effectively for its intended audience. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
8.32(w) x 10.24(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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