♦ Before dawn, Lily and her Gram, both white, drive out from a city to begin a life together on Gram’s Iowa farm. Lily’s in the backseat next to her purple backpack and a box marked “STUFF”; more belongings are strapped to the car roof. Readers aren’t told why Lily is headed to live with her grandmother, but as she looks around with anxious eyes, Griffin (Rhoda’s Rock Hunt) beautifully articulates her sense of displacement: “Gram’s car tires hummed against the pavement. Lily felt the vibration in her hollow chest.” Then Gram comes up with the game of finding 10 beautiful things along the way, and as their list grows—a rural sunrise, a wind farm churning under pink clouds, a thunderstorm breaking across the plains (“Cloud banks traded lightning back and forth, showing off”)—LeChuga’s (Seaside Stroll) digital drawings feel almost cinematic, alternating between dramatic vistas and intense moments of introspection and connection. When Gram tells Lily that the 10th beautiful thing is their love for one another, the girl realizes that while the changes in her life mean that “none of this was easy,” she is where she belongs—and readers will know they’ve been fortunate to accompany her on this life-changing, emotionally expansive journey.
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
♦ The journey begins before dawn. Lily’s in the backseat of Gram’s small car with her backpack by her side, her luggage strapped to the roof, and a map of Iowa on her lap. When her grandmother proposes that they find 10 beautiful things along the way, Lily is doubtful. “You’d be surprised,” says Gram. Number one is sunrise. It’s a long day, and even the crackers Lily eats don’t fill the hollow place inside her. Still, she and Gram call out each new beauty: a wind farm, a red-winged blackbird, and flashes of lightning. When they reach Gram’s farmhouse, she hugs Lily and whispers, “We’re ten.” And Lily relaxes, knowing she belongs with Gram for now. While the child is clearly carrying a burden, her grandmother’s game gives her a technique for looking outside herself and connecting with the world. The looming question, why Lily needs to live with her grandmother, goes unanswered, allowing space for children to create their own answers. But for many, the fact that Lily has Gram will be enough. Griffin’s narrative is both plainspoken and pitch-perfect. From close-ups of characters to rural landscapes with shifting light, colors, and weather, Lechuga’s handsome digital pictures illustrate the story expressively. An emotionally resonant picture book.
—Booklist, starred review
♦ Ten Beautiful Things is a gentle, affecting story about a young girl coming to terms with leaving her home behind to move in with her Gram.
All Lily knows about where she will live with Gram is the “X” marked on “an empty patch of land” on her map. Gram, knowing change is hard, suggests the pair work together to find 10 beautiful things along the way to Iowa. Lily doubts they will find beauty, but when dawn breaks, she’s awed by a magnificent sunrise–she’s found “number one!” They drive on and, just as Lily feels “the complaints starting in her belly again,” Gram points to number two: “spinning windmill blades” that gleam in the morning sun. Lily quickly finds number three, “a red-winged blackbird perched on a swaying stalk of last year’s corn,” and the two travelers continue their search for all 10 things, finding a “falling-apart barn,” the rich smell of mud and a swan-shaped cloud.
Molly Beth Griffin (Rhoda’s Rock Hunt) never explains the reason Lily must make her home with Gram. Instead, she packs her eloquent text with sensory details that masterfully link Lily’s inner and outer journeys. Likewise, Maribel Lechuga’s deftly colored and textured mix-media illustrations feature grand vistas as well as intimate closeups of the grandmother and granddaughter, evoking the unfolding wonders of this difficult trip. Ten Beautiful Things is a deeply touching, ultimately uplifting story. By the end of the drive, readers will know without a doubt, just as Lily does, that she now belongs here, with Gram.
Discover: In this deeply touching story, Lily must move to Iowa to live with Gram, who suggests they find 10 beautiful things along the way.
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
♦ In this gorgeous story about claiming home where we are loved, Lily’s grandma proposes a game to ease the pain of moving: they’ll find ten beautiful sights to celebrate along the way. Though at first Lily’s vision is obscured by grief, she is soon able to note: a brilliant sunrise. A cawing bird. The earthy smell of mud. Her heart opens as their ride reaches its end, resulting in triumph. Its attentive, bright illustrations help to make this a perfect picture book.
—Foreword Reviews, starred review
The simple act of looking for beautiful things can help make life itself beautiful again.
Change isn’t easy, especially for a young girl named Lily who must move—without parents—from the city across Iowa to Gram’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. The reason for Lily’s move is not explained, but all her things are packed in Gram’s car for the daylong journey. When Gram first suggests finding “ten beautiful things along the way,” Lily sees “nothing beautiful.” But soon Lily gasps at the “very moment…the sun [breaks] over the long horizon.” Beautiful thing No. 1. Lechuga’s emotion-laden cameos of Lily in the back seat capture the child’s grief and anxiety, described as “complaints starting in her belly again, coming up her throat, and nearly out her mouth.” Luckily, beautiful things change Lily’s mood. Lily breathes in the smell of mud at a rest area, and the smell “pour[s] itself into some of the empty spaces in her.” Other beautiful things help: a wind farm with white vanes whirling against a violet sky, a red-winged blackbird “perched on a swaying stalk of last year’s corn,” and even a “falling-apart barn” that may be beautiful even if it’s not pretty. Two consecutive spreads capture the force and drama of an Iowa thunderstorm exploding on the plain, which is beautiful thing No. 9. Arriving at Gram’s house, Lily understands that change will not be easy, but she belongs with Gram now: No. 10. Both Lily and Gram present as White.
Stunning illustrations and a quiet appreciation of the natural world combine to create a positive message about change.
Ten Beautiful Things is a lyrical celebration of love, family, and the beauty that surrounds us even in very difficult times.
—Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN