Here are 42 picture books that I ended up loving in 2020, a rough year of sadness and surreal uncertainty. These books provided comfort and hope thanks to excellent writers and extremely gifted artists. Hopefully they will be discovered by a great number of appreciative picture book fans.
A Is for Another Rabbit, illustrated and written by Hannah Batsel, published by Carolrhoda, ISBN: 9781541529502.
One of my favorite things to do in the warm months is take a walk and look for bunnies munching grass in various yards. So Hannah Batsel’s rabbit-packed romp really speaks to me. Sadly though the owl in this story does not possess the same admiration for these long-eared little guys. And the rabbits love taunting the bird who wants to present an alphabet story but one without so many rabbity creatures. The bunnies take over the pages in many hilarious ways. Batsel creates a deliriously funny and manic book that keeps getting goofier and goofier as it proceeds. Expert comic timing.
The Barnabus Project, illustrated and written by The Fan Brothers with Devin Fan, published by Tundra, ISBN: 978-0735263260.
How can a story about a creature so tiny end up seeming so epic in scope? The Barnabus Project, a sci-fi laced adventure about a little half-mouse half-elephant hybrid trapped in an imposing underground lab, feels like a thrillingly devised action movie with a lovable protagonist and equally lovable friends seeking freedom, a life under beautiful stars. This is a story so big it takes not two, but three members of the Fan family (frequent collaborators Eric and Terry joined by their brother Devin) to tell it. And yet the book never loses its sense of emotional urgency; the reader never stops caring about one of the most adorable titular characters of this picture book year.
The Bear in My Family, illustrated and written by Maya Tatsukawa, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-0525555827.
“I live with a bear,” a child says at the start of this story. Yeeps! Tatsukawa’s delightful illustrations (created digitally with handmade textures) introduce a bear that is imposing and scary, but in a lovable and humorous manner: big teeth and an enormous appetite, but reaching for honey chips not humans. I don’t want to spoil the book’s surprises. Let’s just say that they bring extra layers of fun to the account.
Brown Baby Lullaby, illustrated by AG Ford, written by Tameka Fryer Brown, published by Farrar Straus Giroux, ISBN: 978-0374307523.
A warm, comforting book that will work splendidly in a Jammie Time storytime. Cozy, charming illustrations, a text that sings. A book so quiet and sweet, it feels so unassuming. And yet when you dig deeper and study the beautiful art and say those poetic words out loud, you see the art and craft that went into every page.
The Cat Man of Aleppo, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, written by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, ISBN: 978-1984813787.
This powerful look at Mohammad Alaa Alajeel starts with a note from Alaa himself. In his foreword, he tells of his love for cats and how this love drove his mission to save animals orphaned by the war that tore apart his beloved city Aleppo, and to help people as well. Writers Latham and Shamsi-Basha use the present tense when telling his story and this brings an emotional immediacy to the book.
Danbi Leads the School Parade, illustrated and written by Anna Kim, published by Viking, ISBN: 978-0451478894.
What an exuberant book this is! Filled with color and joy, warmth and empathy. And there’s a wild rumpus too. Anna Kim tells a personal story about a Korean girl’s first day attending school in the United States. In an afterword, she mentions how alienating her own first day became, and how a student went out of her way to greet her and make her feel comfortable. Kim takes this personal childhood experience and gives it a vibrant visual spin that captures every emotion her lovable stand-in Danbi feels.
Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Gary Golio, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, ISBN: 978-1524738884.
Picture book biographies often follow the same formula: depict the childhood of a famous person, say that the kid had BIG DREAMS and go from there. Golio dares to employ a second person approach to his telling of the blind blues musician’s life and the result adds an immediacy to the book that carries the reader along. The always-great Lewis brings his A game to his art, creating a memorable and moody atmosphere. The thought that Johnson’s voice and guitar can be heard on that Voyager Golden Record launched into Outer Space gives me chills. A beautiful book.
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, written by Suzanne Slade, published by ABRAMS, ISBN: 978-1419734113.
A book about a great poet should offer strong writing, and Slade truly delivers with her concise, poetic text. Meanwhile, the fabulous illustrator Cozbi A. Cabrera fills each of her acrylic paintings with beautiful sights and memorable emotion. Cabrera often adds a surreal spin to the words. Swirling pinks, blues, and whites fill the sky. And for those concerned with made-up dialogue in non-fiction picture book biographies, the back matter assures us that every quote can be traced back to an original source.
Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, illustrated and written by Michael Rex, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, ISBN: 978-1984816269.
Using multicolored (and very funny) robots as stars, Rex clearly presents what makes a fact different from an opinion. He does it in a way many fascinated kids will find entertaining and easy to understand. His cheerful digital illustrations show beautifully across the room–the metallic creatures possess amusing expressions that range from bliss to bafflement. I love how Rex’s text is both playful and direct. Crystal clear, no wasted words.
Fauja Singh Keeps Going, illustrated by Baljinder Kaur, written by Simran Jeet Singh, foreward by Fauja Singh, published by Kokila, ISBN: 978-0525555094.
This look at the rather incredible Fauja Singh is beyond inspirational. Singh didn’t start running marathons until he was in his 80s! And he became the first person over the age of 100 to complete a long-distance race. Not bad for a man who had trouble walking as a child. This beautiful story receives a top-notch treatment from writer Simran Jeet Singh, who laces his text with heart and empathy, and Baljinder Kauer, who created the illustrations digitally using hand drawings and collage pieces, brings tenderness to her warm, fluid art. The backmatter includes a photo of Fauja Singh at the age of 108. I’m in awe of this guy.
Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns, illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh, published by ABRAMS, ISBN: 978-1419746772.
Once a reader sees a Duncan Tonatiuh illustration, they never forget his distinct style. And he uses his signature approach to great effect in this retelling of the Mesoamerican creation myth about how the gods keep trying to make humans but failing. It’s up to the Feathered Serpent to save the day. This action-packed title is one of the best adventures of the year.
A Girl Like Me, photography by Nina Crews, words by Angela Johnson, published by Millbrook, ISBN: 978-1541557772.
Nina Crews is quite simply one of my favorite picture book creators. Her playful collage and inventive approach always zeroes in on the wonder and joy of childhood. The delightful A Girl Like Me has her finding the perfect collaborator in Angela Johnson who throws bouncy words Crews’ way. Crews takes those words and adds a surreal spin to them, mixing in drawings and photographs as she depicts girls at play or dreaming and always standing tall. This is a perfect companion to her great Richard Wright (celebration of boyhood) book Seeing Into Tomorrow.
Hello, Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring Word of Mister Rogers, illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823446186.
When I heard that the great Caldecott winning illustrator Matthew Cordell planned to create a picture book biography of the groundbreaking children’s TV performer Fred Rogers, I said to myself “of course, what a perfect match.” Cordell’s gentle kindness shines through in all of his work. And his signature watercolors share that same DIY, lo-fi, “color outside the lines” feeling to them as the pleasantly no frills classic TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. There is a delightfully scrappy quality to the way Cordell tells the legend’s story.
Hike, illustrated and written by Pete Oswald, published by Candlewick, ISBN: 978-1536201574.
The first thing to applaud is the inventive cover. Father and child scale the title of the book as if it were a challenging mountain. Oswald chronicles their day from sunrise to sunset, deftly mixing eye-popping double page spreads that convey wonder with visual snippets that capture little moments as well. This is picture book as cinema with overhead shots, changes in perspective, rapidly presented images that suggest quick edits, and slow atmospheric panoramic long takes.
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, written by Candace Fleming, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823442850.
Wow. Just wow. Just look at those details in those oil paintings. Study how the great Caldecott winning artist Eric Rohmann brings the reader up close and personal with the hard-working and extremely fuzzy honeybee. Think about the care he put into each illustration–all those minute details, all that fuzz, those eyes, that tongue, that antennae, those stripes. Candace Fleming’s brilliant text gives the journey a driving immediacy that captivates with each and every page turn. She walks the reader through the honeybee’s busy days, all the while promising that soon this industrious bee will take flight. A masterpiece.
I Am Every Good Thing, illustrated by Gordon C. James, written by Derrick Barnes, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, ISBN: 978-0525518778.
I Am Every Good Thing, of course, is the follow-up to the modern classic Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, a smashing multi-award winning tribute to Black boys and men that topped this blog’s recent Favorite Picture Books of the Decade Poll. Good Thing continues the joyous, celebratory mood of Crown with Barnes offering meticulously crafted poetic text he wrote in honor of his Black sons. The boy on the cover is a painting of illustrator James’ autistic son. Barnes switches from Crown‘s immediate second person prose to an equally effective first person voice. The incomparable James packs each page with memorable images and creative touches. Sometimes realistic, other times more expressionistic, the vibrant, colorful illustrations jump off the page.
I Talk Like a River, illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by Jordan Scott, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823445592.
Some of the very best picture books employ art to reflect what is happening inside a character’s mind. Their emotions, feelings, inner-struggles. As a result, the reader steps inside the protagonist’s head and sees the world from their point-of-view. The poignant I Talk Like a River emerges as a potent example of this thanks to Sydney Smith’s rich, evocative watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations. His work perfectly captures the moods and nuances of Jordan Scott’s dynamic highly personal text.
If You Take Away the Otter, illustrated by Matthew Trueman, written by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, published by Candlewick, ISBN: 978-0763689346.
Okay, let’s talk about those sea urchins! Seriously, I never thought I would gasp at the sight of them, but wow do they ever seem sinister in illustrator Trueman’s able hands. But I digress. Buhrman-Deever’s compact and informative non-fiction account shows how removing the otter from its habitat throws nature off-balance. The creators present a convincing case that we need this adorable, furry creatures. And if they go, then the sea urchins prevail! Yeeps.
Lift, illustrated by Dan Santat, written by Minh Lê, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-1368036924.
What’s amazing about the prolific award-winning Santat is how he manages to find new ways to visually tell a story, to shake up the picture book format. Each new book feels fresh and alive. And he excels at comedy, packing each humorous spread with amusing touches. Facial expressions that say a million words, page turns that lead to new surprises, and brilliant shifts in POV that masterfully capture the comical action. For example, examine his use of graphic novel style panels in Lift, his rather epic collaboration with Minh Lê (a follow-up to their award-winning Drawn Together). Lift has the expert pacing of a thrilling and first-rate animated film.
Me & Mama, illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera, published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-1534454217.
Illustrator Cabrera is on a roll with Exquisite above and this terrific, loving book that shows a mother and child enjoying a simple yet special day. The story zeroes in on the little moments that happen during a short period of time. Meanwhile, Cabrera quietly throws in colors and concepts that deepen the experience.
My Best Friend, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Julie Fogliano, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-1534427228.
My Best Friend is a book that I keep recommending to colleagues and patrons and I’m singing its praises here. And for good reason. Tamaki’s beautiful and unique, often surreal, illustrations join forces with Fogliano’s surprising words in a book that will definitely be mentioned in every “what will win the 2021 Caledecott Award” conversation.
A New Green Day, illustrated and written by Antoinette Portis, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823444885.
Has there ever been a gentler riddle book than A New Green Day? This quiet interactive book follows a soothing pattern. Brief poetic first person text from an unseen and mysterious character hints at their identity. When the reader turns the page, the identity is revealed and the reader learns that it’s something from the natural world (sunlight, an inchworm, a leaf) speaking to them. The language Portis uses here captivates (“I’m a comma/in the long, long sentence/of the stream./Someday soon,/you’ll hear my croak…”). This guessing game works because, quite simply, the answers satisfy. The reader never feels cheated. I marvel at how the author makes each description feel fresh. And her art (brush with sumi ink, leaf prints, vine charcoal, hand-stamped lettering, digitally added color) is, as always, absolutely terrific and inventive.
Old Rock (is not boring), illustrated and written by Deb Pilutti, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, ISBN: 978-0525518181.
If the stone from Brendan Wenzel’s fabulous A Stone Sat Still had a feistier, rock and roll cousin it would resemble the rock starring in this funny yet informative book. Yes, it’s a history lesson of sorts, but also a witty allegory about sitting down with your elders and learning about their eventful past. What’s great about the book is the titular character seems to be surprising even itself when recounting its story. A surefire storytime winner.
The Old Truck, illustrated and written by Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey, published by Norton Young Readers, ISBN: 978-1324005193.
Created by two brothers, The Old Truck uses pared down language when telling of a decades-long account of a rural family’s relationship with their beloved red truck. The art SEEMS simple at first glance. It’s very crisp and clear and not a detail is wasted. However, Jerome Pumphrey created the illustrations with over 250 stamps. When the eye moves over each spread, intricate patterns and designs emerge. Colors complement and respond to one another. Although seemingly minimal, the illustrations have maximum effect.
A Place Inside Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, illustrated by Noa Denmon, written by Zetta Elliott, ISBN: 978-0374307417.
Zetta Elliott’s powerful poem explores the various emotions young Black people are experiencing during these troubling times. Honest and unflinching, the book is both a wake-up call and a message of hope. Kids can look to themselves and each other (and other caring people in their lives) to excel and prevail. Denmon’s moving illustrations are beautiful.
A Polar Bear in the Snow, illustrated by Shawn Harris, written by Mac Barnett, published by Candlewick, ISBN: 978-1536203967.
Barnett strikes a pensive, dreamy tone with his direct prose that sometimes asks readers questions about what the polar bear in question is doing. Illustrator Harris introduces the creature incrementally, playing with blank space as readers see the polar bear seemingly waking up in the middle of a snowstorm. We see his nose first and then his eyes, and then his paper cut body. The artist shows him walking across an icy terrain, passing by playful seals, a cave, a meddlesome human (whom he scares off with a justified roar), heading somewhere. Where? It’s a mystery. When we finally do arrive at the polar bear’s destination, Harris pulls out a glorious water-drenched finale that makes the heart soar.
A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9781419736858.
A stirring first-person memoir with Sharon Langley (working with co-author Amy Nathan) looking back at how, on August 28, 1963, she became the first African-American child to ride on the carousel in Baltimore’s Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. The great illustrator Floyd Cooper is at the top of his game here. Using his signature technique (oil erasure on an illustration board), Cooper creates spreads that have the hazy, poignant feel of a summer memory.
Salma the Syrian Chef, illustrated by Anna Bron, written by Danny Ramadan, published by Annick, ISBN: 978-1773213750.
Ramadan, an LGBTQIAP+ refugee activist who helps people in Canada, tells this beautiful story about a family who moves from Syria to Vancouver. A young girl wishes to make her mother smile again by learning how to cook a beloved Syrian dish for her. Anna Bron’s warm, lively illustrations capture the many emotions of this dramatic situation. What emerges is a tender and uplifting celebration of family, community and empathy.
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver, illustrated by Frank Morrison, written by Gene Barretta, published by Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarperCollins), ISBN: 978-0062430151.
Brilliant at depicting the lively vivacity of city life, illustrator Frank Morrison proves here that he is equally adept at creating quiet scenes in the woods. Here budding scientist George Washington Carver explores and interacts with the natural world. Writer Barretta does a solid job covering a lot of ground in a succinct fashion. The final spread with an elderly Carver standing near his garden, leaning on a stick cane, accompanied by the words “Regard Nature. Revere Nature. Respect Nature.” is Morrison at his best. He offers an image that haunts the memory long after you close the book.
See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, written by David LaRochelle, published by Candlewick, ISBN: 978-1536204278.
This absolutely hilarious (and meta) easy reader has three stories about a dog who simply wants to be left alone. But a taunting narrator wreaks havoc for the flustered canine. I love comedy that truly surprises me and LaRochelle’s gag startle in the best way possible. Wohnoutka’s amusing cartoons add a visual punch to the humorous shenanigans. Writing easy readers must be Difficult with a capital D. This team makes the task look effortless and easy. A book to read again and again.
Swashby and the Sea, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, written by Beth Ferry, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 978-0544707375.
I have praised Pura Belpré Illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner Martinez-Neal several times for her distinct, unforgettable style. I adore her round characters. Writer Ferry tells a lovely story of a reclusive sailor (his boat is even called El Recluso) not exactly digging his fun-loving and friendly young new neighbor. There is an amusing running joke with Swashby writing “go away” type messages in the sand, only to have the waves wash away the mean letters to create new, more welcoming words.
Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, illustrated by Don Tate, written by Suzanne Slade, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-0316481670.
When I was a kid, I caught the Harlem Globetrotters twice and was able to experience the absolute brilliance of Curly and Meadowlark Lemon. This terrific account tells how this legendary team came to be. Slade’s text bounces with energetic, rapturous energy. Tate’s dynamic illustrations leap off the page, catching the glorious action with kinetic finesse.
This Old Dog, illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo, written by Martha Brockenbrough, published by Levine Querido, ISBN: 978-1646140107.
This book’s endearing protagonist does not move as fast as before, and wishes the world would slow to a more manageable pace. Life has become a race thanks to the presence of the little human now residing in the house. I absolutely love the way Alborozo depicts the dog in this book, giving the critter a wide variety of expressions and perfectly rendered body language; the reader feels every emotion the dog feels. Brockenbrough’s text does not waste a single word and does a beautiful job adding layers to the situation. This emerges as a surprisingly rich character study. What raises the book to another level is the immensely satisfying resolution.
The Three Billy Goats Buenos, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez, written by Susan Middleton Elya, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-0399547393.
This starts off as a fairly straightforward bilingual (Spanish/English) retelling of the classic folktale, but Elya pulls the rug out from the under the reader by the end. Suddenly she serves up a surprisingly effective mash-up of the Billy Goats Gruff and Androcles and the Lion. The feel good happy ending works splendidly. A lot of credit goes to Ordóñez’s bright illustrations which are bright and cheerful on one level, but giddily grotesque on another.
Trees Make Perfect Pets, illustrated by Cathy Gendron, written by Paul Czajak, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, ISBN: 978-1492664734.
This charmer has already become a storytime favorite. For her birthday, Abigail says she wants a pet. Not a dog. Not a hamster. Not a bird. But rather a tree, a dogwood she calls Fido. People, especially her brother and a pesky neighbor boy who brags about his cat Oprah Whiskers, tease her for her choice. And having a tree has its share of ups and downs. However, everything leads to a sweet, satisfying ending that convinces readers trees are great to have around for many many reasons. Czajak’s text sings with amusing good cheer as Gendron’s fluid illustrations pop off the page.
¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, illustrated and written by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bay, published by VERSIFY (an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 978-1328557049.
Last year I went gaga over Raúl the Third’s delightfully surreal ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, which I described as a visually inventive cross between Richard Scarry and R. Crumb. I’m happy to report that he has followed up with a sequel that is just as boisterous, just as rollicking, just as cool. I mean, we are talking supercool. Holding these books in my hand make me feel a kazillion times cooler than I ever hope of being. What amazes me about this new offering is it feels like I’m revisiting familiar old friends: Little Lobo, Kooky Dooky, El Toro, all of the animal supporting characters populating the ever-busy pages. As Little Lobo scrambles about trying to find food for los luchadores, he zips and travels through arrestingly rendered cityscapes packed with intricate comical details.
We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade, written by Carole Lindstrom, published by Roaring Brook, ISBN: 978-1250203557.
Visually stunning and written with dynamic and emotionally direct purpose, Water Protectors provides an inspiring allegorical look at how many Indigenous-led movements across North America warn people about the environmental harm caused by oil pipelines. The book’s Indigenous creators write a love letter to Earth’s natural wonders, and remind readers–young and old–that they must protect the water from greed-fueled contamination. Author Lindstrom uses a first person narrator with her poetic prose, putting the reader in her central figure’s (a young girl’s) shoes. These multi-layered, constantly intriguing colorful images flow like water across the page. Goade’s art conveys the glory of thriving nature, and then brings a real disturbing edge to the moments depicting the harmful effects of pollution. The girl’s expressions and body language haunt the memory, as she looks directly at the reader on one spread and faces down evil on another.
Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail, illustrated by Susan Gal, written by Lesléa Newman, published by Charlesbridge, ISBN: 9781580898829.
This nicely done holiday book works beautifully as a story about a Jewish family celebrating Passover inside a cozy home and a stray kitten outside in the night. With crisp and succinct prose, Newman guides readers through the various parts of the Seder by introducing a young boy who experiences and enjoys each step. Newman alternates between the child and the feline, deftly comparing what they are doing. Gal’s rich, warm illustrations add to the tenderness of the telling. It all leads to a sweet, happy ending, and the promise of a boy-cat friendship.
Who Will You Be?, illustrated and written by Andrea Pippins, published by Schwartz & Wade, ISBN: 978-1984849489.
While on the children’s reference desk I am often asked for easy picture books about families. I will definitely not hesitate to recommend this tender, joyous book the next time the question arises. With emotionally direct language, Pippins introduces a parent who wonders about which traits their child will possess as they grow older. Will the kid be like the activist grandmother, the introspective brother, the dad with the kind eye, the loud joyful cousin? Each double page spread exudes warmth and will show nicely in family storytimes.
Window, created by Marion Arbona, published by Kids Can Press, ISBN: 978-1525301360.
Every year members of the Academy vote for films vying for the Best Animated Short Oscar. And usually at least one of the nominees is idiosyncratic, surreal, and fabulously odd. This wordless romp feels like one of those masterpieces. A child sees a bunch of windows and wonders about the rooms inside. Each double page spread has a gatefold that when opened (the pages fold out) reveals a very strange fantastical space. Both psychedelic and astonishing, Arbona’s illustrations (rendered in felt pen) are packed with humor and surprise. Readers will want to make this journey again and again.
Your Name Is a Song, illustrated by Luisa Uribe, written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, published by The Innovation Press, ISBN: 978-1943147724.
A girl’s first day of school becomes frustrating because her teacher and classmates cause a fuss over not being able to pronounce her name. Her mother teaches the distraught child about the beauty and musicality of her name and her spirits rise. What makes this book special, in addition to Uribe’s glowing art and Thompkins-Bigelow’s inspirational text, is the sly touch of having ALL the character’s names phonetically spelled out at the end. Learning to pronounce other people’s names in a diverse culture is something not only kids should learn…we have adults who need this lesson as well.
Your Place in the Universe, illustrated and written by Jason Chin, published by Neal Porter Books (an imprint of Holiday House), ISBN: 978-0823446230.
A visual tour de force from an inventive non-fiction picture book creator. It’s a book that needs to be seen to be believed. I mean I could try to explain how effective this book is in a mere, humble capsule, but my attempts will most likely fall short. All I can say is Chin successfully gives us readers a sense of where we stand in the grand cosmic scheme of things, starting small and becoming increasingly more epic with each new page. Transendent.