This is a wonderfully circular book. Amelia smiles, her smile is contagious and spreads all around the world and finally finds its way back to her - and she smiles again!
I love a book that shows (but doesn’t preach about) the interconnectedness of people around the world – this book manages exactly that.
And I think the key is the joyfulness of the illustrations. There’s a fuzziness* to them that invites the reader into the edges of the world each character inhabits.
My favourite page is very early on when ‘Mrs Higgins smiled too’ - it's the fun of Amelia and her family running in the rain coupled with Mrs Higgins enjoying it from inside and another neighbour ignoring the whole scene that gets me.
But then again, every page is full of detail that's worth poring over.
The different approaches to life shown by each character are lovely, but because they're all approached with the same artistic style, the connections between the characters are reinforced.
That's what I love about this book – it shows that we’re all clearly different, we all have different worries, different joys, and different lives and we can profoundly impact one another without even knowing it. Later in the book Phyllis gets a marriage proposal because Amelia smiled!
I also love that what Amelia did cost nothing and was something that could be duplicated by everyone without reference to their situation in life. There’s a great quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr on the back of the dust jacket which says
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
That man could write to inspire! But really, how much better a world would we have if that consciousness informed at least some of what we did. Because Amelia Smiled is a delightful way to start or continue to teach exactly that.
P.S. Amelia was 13 years in the making! David Ezra Stein tells that, when he was still in art school, he was talking about Buddhism with his sister 'about how you can choose in every moment how to respond to the things that happen to you' and 'suddenly a story started telling itself to me'. The story of course was Amelia. David Ezra Stein says:
"I want people to know that what one person does, matters. And art matters. It makes the world go 'round'."
Names in this book - Amelia, Lionel, Sensacia, Zeeta, Kotz, Ichabod, Betty, Gregor, Phyllis, Lydia