By Elizabeth Wroten
Picture Book Review: If You Look Up to the Sky by Angela Dalton
On 28, Jun 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
If You Look Up to the Sky written by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Margarita Sikorskaia
From Goodreads: There are times when a full moon will guide you, a storm will excite you, and a big, blue sky will inspire you to believe anything is possible. These are a few of the many gifts we receive from the sky and universe when life feels scary and confusing.
Told by a grandmother to her grandchild, If You Look Up to the Sky is about the power of everlasting love and the ways the sky connects us through good times and bad. It offers a child comfort in knowing that you never need to be afraid… if you look up to the sky.
I wish I had had this book to review in April, National Poetry Month. It is such a beautiful, prayer-like ode to slowing down and worrying less. It’s also a beautiful remembrance of a grandmother who knew how to soothe a worried child.
Each line of the poem starts with “If you look up to the sky…” The child seen in the illustrations shares that their grandmother would encourage them to look up and notice what was in the sky. Through the story they share each of the meanings held by the different skies you might encounter. Some meanings are affirmations about a person’s worth or what they bring to the world. Others are mantras about taking life as it comes and finding solace and strength in whatever comes your way.
I know in our house we’re dealing with some anxiety and I have been looking for ways to help my daughter feel loved, seen, and connected and give her some ideas she can keep in her back pocket for when she’s feeling worried. I’m putting this book into heavy rotation at bedtime and mentioning it during times she’s struggling.
I also appreciate that the book can be used to help with grief over the loss of a loved one. In the beginning the young child remembers what their grandmother would say when she sat the child on her lap. As the book progresses, the child ages up and appears to become an adult. The final stanza is “But know that you will always find me, in the brightness of the moon…If you look up to the sky.” The final illustration shows the grandmother’s face in the face of the full moon shining down on the silhouette of a parent and child waving up at the moon grandmother. I interpreted this to mean that the grandmother had passed on, but had left the gift of looking at the sky as well as a memory of her in the moon for her family. I don’t think you need to draw a connection to this explicitly, but if you are looking for some comfort in a time of loss, I do think this book could be a resource and help.
The illustrations all feature a child of color, which, at least in my experience, is rare in a bedtime-style book (Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang notably comes to mind, but few others do). The soft colors and fuzzy edges give the pictures a dreamy, soothing quality that really matches the message of the book. Nature features prominently too, as you might expect with stanzas interpreting what the sky indicates.
I highly recommend this one for home libraries. I do think there is a place for it on library shelves as children need to find it and find the wisdom in it. I see it fitting better with the mission of public libraries who provide books for families to share without needing to support a curriculum or study, but school libraries should consider it if they do social-emotional learning or have a collection with affirming books.
Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.