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All the Water in the World

All the Water in the World A while ago I mentioned this book as the favorite of a teacher friend. Now it’s time to look at it as a Caldecott contender.

This is absolutely the kind of book the committee will be talking about. Not only is it darned pretty, there are plenty of elements to discuss. When I was on the committee, people were especially drawn to books that used design elements in bold ways, as this book does.

All the Water in the World is a poem by George Ella Lyon, and that poem actually begins with the title. The first line — or the first spread after the title page reads “…is all the water in the world.” That would have thrilled the people on my committee. Or maybe you could say that the ellipsis indicates that there’s no clear beginning because the book is all about cycles. Either way, it’s clever.

Not only does it have everything a teacher could want from a curriculum perspective, but the art is big and bold, making it work well in a large group. Students will probably be able to read some of it from a distance, too, because of the varied type — sometimes large, sometimes curved, stretched, bumping up down, etc. Also, the reader gets to turn the book 90 degrees. Playing With the Picture Book Form: another favorite talking point.

I have to admit that my first time through I was caught off guard when the poet’s voice came forward with the line, “…till cool air bumps through and honey, those clouds just let it go…” It’s the “honey” that surprised me, but that might be partly because I’d just been pondering it’s use in Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul. Now I like it, but it completely changed how I wanted to read the text aloud. When I got to that word, I had to go back to the beginning and start again, this time with a more expansive and direct voice, making eye contact with everyone who’s listening. (No one was listening, but I think picture books need to be read aloud, even if only mentally.) If you get that voice going from the beginning, then the ending works better, too. Read introspectively, the ending is too obviously lesson-driven.

I’m supposed to be keeping my word count down, but MAN is that hard! I haven’t even talked about the art in any detail. Did you see that the CIP text says “The illustrations for this book are rendered digitally”? Tillotson certainly has a restrained touch with the digital effects. There’s some blurring that strikes me as going a little overboard (so to speak) but the subtle translucent effects and overlapping of layers in the ocean pictures work really well. You can’t get those effects with straight-out collage.

As you see, it’s not just the committee who will want to talk about this. What do YOU think?

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Okay, I really, *really* fear I’ll look like someone who is pushing her blog in everyone’s faces and trying to drive blog traffic (which I swear I’m not), but I want to quickly add, since I love this blog and come reading every word every day from you and Robin, that I chatted briefly with Tillotson back in April about how she created the art for the book ( It actually started by collaging from hand-patterned papers, as she explains.

    I realize that the committee is looking at the *final product* and that these behind-the-scenes details may have little relevance, but still…I share that as an illustration junkie who was intrigued by this book.

    And that is all.

  2. You have to keep your word count down? Is that why these entries have been so short? I’ve been really enjoying every entry and wishing they were longer. I feel as if you both are holding back, trying to keep something restrained. Please hold forth! If someone is telling you to keep your word count down – tell them you want more (or just do it!).
    I like this book alot, and had the same reaction to the ‘honey’. It became much more of a personal poem at that point, and I had to completely readjust my thinking, reading and processing of the book and went right back, like you did, and started again. And I’m secretly disappointed that it isn’t hand drawn with real brushes. I must admit I missed the blurring.

  3. Thanks for sharing your blog entry. I wish I’d read it before I’d commented on this one. And I really like your blog. It is now in my favorites.

  4. I agree on the word count! For some people that are not as familiar with the process that the committee goes through (like myself) and are following along, this blog can serve as a wonderful tool to learn how to look differently at books. I’ve learned so much following along with Heavy Medal (which seems more likely to let it all fly) and am enjoying now doing the same thing here! Share, guide, and have no fear, people will comment if they disagree (they always do).

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