April 23, 2021


Written and illustrated by Ani Castillo
Megan Tinsley Books (Little, Brown and Company)
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
March 2021

Ani Castillo charmed me and other readers with Ping (2019), her picture book about an amorphous being who had a message about communication and connecting with others. In Spark, a different entity akin to a child in a snowsuit delights in the spark that is life.

The story begins with a question.
What is this magical thing...
to be alive?
It's a big question. What does it mean? From the coming together of individuals who fall in love is created their little bundle of blue who revels in all that they can do: touch, smell, tell, cry, sleep, dance, love, give, share, make...There is so much for which to be thankful. 
From Spark by Ani Castillo
But more than the now is the anticipation of what can still be, in places to be explored, in lives to be touched and in letting the spark shine. And even with cold, rain and darkness, the gift of that spark of life endures. 
From Spark by Ani Castillo
Though I could see Spark being a great book for very young children to understand the concept of life–getting life, living life, and appreciating life–I think that it's really about the gratitude we should have for the lives we have. Not always perfect, sometimes totally disheartening, and often messy, but still there is a spark that persists as long as we're alive. And the spark isn't there because you have the most expensive toys or are the most famous or the wealthiest. It's there by virtue of the life spark within. Ani Castillo shows us that simplicity of idea in her text and her art. There are no superfluous words to cloud the message. There is just life lived in its most basic forms. Similarly Ani Castillo's art of pencil and watercolours extends this message of modesty and openness. We are all these beings, both shapeless and distinct, human and not, but all with life that is recognizable. 

As long as there is the spark of life, there is something worthwhile to hold onto and for which to be grateful.
From Spark by Ani Castillo

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