After reading Me and Momma and Big John, ($16.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 and up) William Low is now one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. After reading this story and marveling at the pictures, I’m sure he will be one of your favorites, too. This award-winning artist is classically trained and has also mastered the art of digital illustrating. The pictures are extraordinary and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time on each page to marvel at all the detail.
The story, written by Mara Rockliff, is about an African American woman stone cutter who works on helping to finish building the Cathedral of St. John., a.k.a. Big John, in New York City during the 1980s. The first stones to build the structure were laid in 1892, but due to numerous reasons, mostly World War II, the building was never finished. The author was inspired by real-life apprentice stone cutter, Carol Hazel, to write the story. In the back of the book you can read about the history of the cathedral.
What I like about the story is that it teaches children about preservation of our most treasured buildings and how many people it takes to create them, one stone at a time. In addition to that and the illustrations, I can also appreciate the high quality of this sturdy, big, beautiful book from the printing and paper, to the binding and the cover. And like the Cathedral of St. John, it’s made to last, and was written and illustrated to keep for generations to enjoy.