What is this magical thing …
to be alive?
Where was I before I was born?
How many people were born before me?
How many people have had the spark?
And were able ...
to touch, to smell, to hear, to laugh, and tell,
to cry, to sleep, and dream,
to make, to dance, to give, to love, and share …
It was a delight reading Ani Castillo’s picture book Spark. My heart was filled with light, feather-like joy; and a smile lingered on my face the whole time. The lines read lithesome and lilting, presenting a young child’s curious voice to the reader as if I was having a conversation with a brilliant young one, discussing the most important philosophical questions in life most authentically and innocently.
From birth to forever, everyone possesses this amazing gift from life called the spark. Are you able to see and feel yours? Are you able to be aware that being alive is an amazing thing and that life alone is worthy of praise and appreciation? If you are a parent, have you given your child the space to allow their spark to shine? Where was I before I was born? How many people were born before me? How many people have had the spark?
I loved how the author raises such BIG questions in the book, inviting adults and providing a medium for us to have meaningful conversations with young children. As a parent of two young girls, one six-year-old and one three-year-old, oh don’t I know about their natural curiosity and intelligent thinking! The questions they ask are sometimes so challenging and so deeply rooted in human intelligence, even Socrates and Aristotle would have to ponder before giving out an answer. I appreciated this book as a tool to start those difficult conversations with small children, to provoke, instead of shy away from, these significant discussions.
In addition, how wonderful a lesson it would be for the young ones and for us adults, through reading such a book, to be more grateful for life and all the ordinary yet amazing things we can do being alive! For example, have we ever considered the connection between ourselves and something larger - the universe, our community, and ancestors from centuries ago? Have we ever appreciated the seasons, the changes of the smallest details of colours and shapes in nature? Have we ever realized that all things in life are beautiful simply because we are alive and we have the spark?
Ani Castillo, the author and illustrator of Spark is a talented artist who was born and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her two young daughters. The joyful lens through which she sees life is painted in every picture in the book. She spreads positivity through vibrant colours, childish lines, and brilliant stories embedded in the illustration.
I would love to see Spark read, learned, discussed, appreciated in preschool, kindergarten, and lower grades classrooms; on community library bookshelves; in homes; and even on grown-ups’ reading list.
Let’s start having these conversations and see the beauty in life!
We all need our spark!
Emma Chen is a Ph.D. Candidate with a research focus on immigrant children’s heritage language education at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.