We love Marie-Louise Gay’s Sam and Stella books. Amie loves the repeated “Stellaaaaaaa!” or “Saaaaaam!” exclamations, Stella’s red hair, and Sam’s funny dog, Fred.
And, o yes, the stories – always surprising, uplifting and subtly wise – and the illustrations – delightful watercolors and pencil works of art (colorful, but easy on the eye) of adorable characters and settings.
Oh, and those settings! Stella and Sam venture mostly outside, into nature. There Sam asks and Stella answers, to the best of her capabilities, which are extensive, especially in the area of imagination.
– “Stella, can dogs read?” asked Sam
– “Yes,” said Stella. “But they need glasses.”
Even when they’re inside, they are getting ready to go out, or the outside is subtly present.
In “What are you doing, Sam?”, Stella keeps an eye on her little brother’s increasingly alarming indoor activities – that is, alarming for us, reading parents: the kids don’t worry, since there are no parents, not even a hint of them, in the Sam and Stella books.
Stella is more occupied with studying leaves and trees. My favorite illustration shows her sitting at a desk strewn with paints, tape, brushes and inks, leaves taped onto paper, and a jar with a ladybug. She is painting a tree on the right page in abook – on the left page there are notes.
Stella is my kind of girl! And the place where she lives – the rooms, the house, the natural worLd outside – is my kind of place!
The window behind her reveals that it is raining. Brown leaves are falling to the ground. It is Fall and the feeling that has been growing throughout the book – of homeliness, warmth and safety – magisterially comes together.
In the next illustration, Sam is also painting (on the wall!): in his painting the sun shines brightly, and the grass and trees are green.
In fact, I am so enamored with these books that I went ahead and wrote them up in an article on Suite1o1! Be sure to have a read!