Many thanks to Book Page for this lovely review of Graduation Day:
Graduation days are supposed to be joyous occasions, so readers who enter the wordless Graduation Day, Piotr Parda’s debut picture book as both author and illustrator, may be surprised to see a bleak, gray cityscape and a school suffering from abandon. Despite the school’s cracks and holes, one young, wide-eyed girl with oversize glasses and dressed in her graduation cap and gown is smiling. She’s still smiling when some ugly bullying classmates, both in character and appearance, laugh, point and shoot a round object at her.
Undeterred, the girl pockets the object and lines up with the rest of the multicultural students. After the obligatory speeches (met with students yawning), tossing of the caps and parental hugs in the parking lot, the girl walks alone down a drab hallway to empty her locker. Once it’s open, readers now see what was shot at her: a seed. Inside the locker is a jar brimming with these same seeds.
Seeds often represent change, and the symbolism is not lost in this context as the girl begins dropping seeds in cracks around the school. Wherever she plants the seeds, sprouts—and eventually, color—burst upward. The sprouts give way to luscious yellow flowers that fill up the school courtyard. A return to the initial city scene now shows a cheery school and yellow flowers spreading beyond its walls. While the messages of bullying, change and peace are clear, the thought-provoking artwork makes this a book to be savored and discussed by readers of all ages.