Very few picture books involve two separate stories that meet at some point in the book. Interestingly, I discovered two recently that use this structure, so I couldn’t help but pair them.
The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall
Author: Hannah Holt
Illustrator: Jay Fleck
Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)/2018
Themes: diamonds; engineering; STEM; innovation; biography
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.
Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.
Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.
From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.
Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar and an interview with Holt at The Picture Book Buzz.
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Jim Burke
Publisher/Date: Philomel Books/2008
Themes: immigration; Statue of Liberty; freedom
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A double celebration for Independence Day! In this wonderfully unique book, Jane Yolen and Jim Burke weave two stories at once, as readers see young Gitl in Russia leaving her home for faraway America, wondering what new name she will choose for herself when she arrives, and young artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi dreaming of a monument he wants to build to honor freedom. It is an arduous journey for Gitl as she and her family travel across land and sea to arrive on this shore, but when she sees the magnificent Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, she knows her name in this great new country must be ?Liberty.
Just in time for Independence Day, Jim Burke’s magnificent paintings capture Yolen’s inspired tale of a girl and an artist and their passionate belief in freedom.
Read a review at Kids Bookshelf.
I paired these books because of their parallel structures.
In The Diamond and the Boy, Holt tells the story of the creation of a natural diamond, from graphite to sparkling gem on the left side of each spread. On the right side, she shares the biography of her grandfather, the scientist and inventor, Tracy Hall, who rose from an impoverished childhood to discover a process of creating man-made industrial diamonds. I love how Holt uses similar adjectives to describe the graphite’s journey to become a diamond and Hall’s life. I also appreciate the terrific backmatter about diamonds and Hall.
In Naming Liberty, Yolen uses the left side of each spread to tell the fictional story of young Gitl and her family as they embark on a journey from a small Russian village to New York City, where they are greeted by the Statue of Liberty. On the right side, Yolen tells the story of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and the creation of the Statue of Liberty. In an Author’s Note, Yolen explains that Gitl’s story is based on that of Yolen’s family as well as the immigration stories of other Eastern European Jewish immigrants. She also provides further information about the Statue of Liberty and its creator.
Although The Diamond and the Boy is pure non-fiction and Naming Liberty is only partially true, I think it’s illuminating how telling two stories side-by-side creates a picture book that is more than the sum of its parts.