Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love

 

Julián at the Wedding 
by Jessica Love
Digital Review Copy from Candlewick Press
Love's debut picture book, Julián is a Mermaid, is a magnificently beautiful emotional experience, in both illustrations and story, and her newest book, Julián at the Wedding, is equally, magically so. 

Julián is part of a wedding and, along with his new friend Marisol, the pair walk Gloria, the brides' dog, and scatter flower petals down the aisle. Then they get to have fun at this "party for love." The pair go from chatting at the table, to whispers under the table (where Marisol crowns Julián with her wreath of poppies) to a weeping willow "fairy house." When Marisol's gown is covered in Gloria's muddy paw prints, Julián has an idea. Marisol emerges in Julián's dress shirt, a red ribbon at her waist cinching feathery willow branches that look like fairy wings. The serious stare of Marisol's abuela becomes one of approval when she returns Marisol's baseball cap to her, completing the new outfit. The friends head to open arms of the brides and dance until they fall asleep under the stars.

My words do not do justice to what Love has created (with either of her books) so I will finish out this review with her own words! Here are excepts from an interview with the author, provided by Candlewick Press:

Discussing Julián is a Mermaid and Julián at the Wedding, Love says:

I think of the two books as different verses of the same song, and that moment of handing over a talismanic object is the chorus. We ask children to perform their genders in different ways, and just as Julián’s nature is larger than the role society would ask him to play, Marisol’s nature doesn’t fit inside her dress. Because this is an experience Julián understands, he is able to use his empathy and creativity to help his friend move from shame into joy. They are both stories about finding a way of being at home in yourself, then finding the courage to share that self with the world. 

On the gorgeous flowers and scenes of nature in Julián at the Wedding, Love says:

I am a devout nature-worshipper from way back. I grew up in a cabin in a national forest in California, and to me the natural world is the original source of beauty. In this book there are tributes to a weeping willow (classic stunner, obviously) and an American beech (beech trees are organized into families, and they share nutrients with one another!). The wedding flowers are nasturtiums and bougainvillea (both tributes to my California roots), and there are dayflowers, clover, knotgrass, and poppies in the meadow (poppies are my favorite flower). Lastly, one of the brides’ hair is filled with my favorite wildflowers: sweet peas, clematis, lilies of the valley, and mariposa lilies.

And, on what she hopes readers will take away from Julián at the Wedding, Love says:

It was my hope to bottle the feeling of being a child at an adult party. When you’re little, there is something really amazing about seeing adults playing dress-up and dancing, because what they’re doing is playing, really. Mostly you just see adults working, accomplishing, and enforcing, and you rarely get to see grown-ups at play. To have those rules suspended and to see the child within the adult is a really magical experience when you are little. It’s also a story about making a friend by sharing a feeling of complicité, about connecting in a moment of vulnerability. It is a story about the power of dress-up, and it’s a celebration of nature, love, and, of course, dancing. I suppose my hope for the book is a simple one: that it will make people happy.

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