All in a Day
By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Nikki McClure
Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780810983212
Grades K-2
In Stores


All in a Day is a throwback, no question. A simple storyline with gentle, poetic text, a limited color palate of black, blue, and yellow, and bold paper-cut illustrations all add up to a retro feel. In appearance, it looks like it could have fit in if it was published right alongside Marcia Brown’s 1961 masterpiece Once a Mouse. For those reasons (as so often things that seem “old-fashioned” tend to be) it’s not a crowd-pleaser. All in a Day isn’t a book kids will be begging their parents to buy. It is, however, a stunningly illustrated book that deserves to be shared.

The theme here is living life to its fullest. The tone is one of wonderment. As the title implies, the storyline follows a dark-haired boy through one long, beautiful summer day in the country. Working in the garden, feeding the animals, playing games, taking a nap, exploring the wilderness – it’s a full day. The spare text is a rhyming poem that appears in small bursts on each two-page spread. It may not please all readers. The first time reading, I was one of them. I thought the text might tackle themes too difficult for children to wrap their heads around. Cynthia Rylant challenges the reader here, it it may be off-putting to some, but the illustrations lend a good dose of clarity.

Aside from enhancing the text, the artwork is just plain beautiful. Nikki McClure employs a time consuming cut-paper technique where every line on the page is interconnected. The colors are later added by computer. Each turn of the page brings a switch in the background color from blue to yellow. It’s the sort of art that takes on a whole new meaning when you consider how it was created. Look no further than the rainstorm scene – it will have you wondering how McClure pulled it off. The children’s lit blog A Fuse #8 Production recently mentioned All in a Day as a possible early Caldecott contender – the illustrations absolutely merit that sort of discussion.

Now this isn’t the kind of book that will jump up and down and declare its presence, slaying during read-aloud and wowing you with hipness or humor. But give it a chance. Quiet, beautiful books like this have a tendency to grow on readers.

Read an outstanding interview with illustrator Nikki McClure at Mishaps and Adventures.

Also reviewed by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, A Patchwork of Books.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.