by: Piotr Parda
Hardcover picture book
8 x 10 inches
Release date: March 21, 2017
Other titles by this illustrator: The Gentleman Bat
About the Book
Sometimes beautiful things can sprout from the most unlikely circumstances.
About the Author/Illustrator
Piotr Parda is a human who does human things. He eats, sleeps and makes things. Blah, blah, blah... He is also the illustrator of The Gentleman Bat, written by Abraham Schroeder. Visit his website www.piotrparda.com
Reviews and Mentions
From Reading 32 Pages, April 17, 2017:
Brief summary: First scene. There is a student dressed in a graduation gown and mortar looking out of a school window smiling. The wordless story continues with the setting through a bird’s view of a city block all in gray with a school yard in the center. Closer look. There are cracks all over the school building and concrete grounds. Next is a large graduation day banner. Then we see where the plot begins. The student is a victim of a group of children jeering at her, and one shoots a sunflower seed through a straw hitting her in the neck. She picks up the seed. They all go to the graduation ceremony, hear the speech, and throw their hats in the air. Kids are happy and go home with family members.
She walks alone down the school’s gray halls to her locker one last time where there is a jar full of sunflower seeds revealing to the reader just what type of life this young lady endured. She takes the jar and goes about the empty school grounds planting sunflower seeds in the cracks creating a beautiful bright yellow space.
Comments: Wow. So many words and emotions for a story without words. Not the usual happiness on someone’s graduation day. This is a story of a person who has been bullied many times made evident of all the sunflower seeds collected in her locker’s jar. She was able to take that hate and meanness and loneliness to create the only bright color in the book…a sunflower garden. This is a resonating story without words that is not a preachy bullying message of “do not bully; it’s wrong.” This is about a victim who, despite it all, is able to create hope and beauty where there must have been a lot of heartache. The symbolism of the sunflowers can be understood by even younger readers.
From BookPage, March 21, 2017:
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. -Angela Leeper
From Midwest Book Review, March 2017:
Through simple, full-page, engagingly charming illustrations by Piotr Parda, Graduation Day, without any text or dialogue, shows a day in a life of a girl who takes the actions of others and grows something beautiful. This imaginative and original story delivers a simple but powerful message that sometimes great things can sprout from the most unlikely circumstances. The author/illustrator's solo debut, Graduation Day clearly demonstrates Parda's genuine flair for visual storytelling, making Graduation Day highly recommended for family, elementary school and community library picture book collections.
From Kirkus Reviews, March 3, 2017:
More Than One Kind of Mirror by Julie Danielson
It’s rare to see picture books that address squalor or anything just short of it. One could argue that children from families with significant economic disadvantages would prefer to read books of escapism. Yet at the same time, as has been addressed and discussed so often in the field of children’s literature, particularly in the past several years, those same children may also want to see their lives in the books they read. We often talk about the need for mirrors in children’s and young adult books in terms of skin color. “When children,” wrote Rudine Sims Bishop in 1990, “cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.” What about the mirrors reflecting class issues too?
Two brand-new picture books—Jairo Buitrago’s Walk with Me, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, and Piotr Parda’s Graduation Day—address living conditions on the more derelict side of things and, in the case of Walk with Me, a child living in poverty. This is so unusual to see in the world of glossy, bright American picture books, many depicting a solidly middle-class world, that these two books got my attention fast.
Walk with Me is an import and was originally published to acclaim as Camino a casa in 2008. It’s brought to readers by the same duo that wrote and illustrated 2012’s Jimmy the Greatest! It’s even translated into English by the same woman who translated Jimmy, Elisa Amado, and it will be on shelves this month. It’s the story of a young girl who is accompanied by a lion on her way home from school. The lion, who adores the girl, never bothers anyone but clearly frightens the people in town who see him. At the end of her day, the girl slides into bed, knowing her lion will come again when she calls for him. She looks over at a picture on the bed-side table, which features her and her brother with their father, who has golden, mane-like hair. Her father is nowhere to be seen and, for reasons unknown to the reader, doesn’t live in her home.
That’s it for the plot of this tender story. But it’s everything that happens in the book’s middle and everything you see on the girl’s journey home that are remarkable in terms of class issues. She lives in a town with a factory spitting visible pollution into the air; her school, as well as the apartment buildings and homes she passes in town, have clearly seen better days; she stops at a store that “won’t give us credit anymore,” the lion scaring the store clerk so badly, she successfully gets bags full of groceries for her family; and we see, once she arrives home and makes it inside, that the furnishings are spare to say the least. This is a family that makes little money.
The girl’s mother is bedraggled in that specific way poverty can wear down one’s spirit. When “Mama gets home from the factory,” she hangs her head low and trudges along – all after a long day of what was most likely hard, physical labor. When the girl, her brother, and her mother go to sleep in one big bed later that night, the wall behind them is cracked. On the final spread, if you look closely, you’ll see a newspaper with a headline that reads in Spanish what I think is “Families of Missing 1985.”
Though she lives in poverty and is daily on her own (at least until she picks up her baby brother), it’s the thought of the girl’s father, wherever he may be, that brings her comfort and helps her feel secure. In this way, she transcends her troubles. The sunny yellow flower next to her father’s picture, the brightest part of Yockteng’s palette here, is so much sunshine in a world with its fair share of struggle.
Piotr Parda’s Graduation Day is the wordless story of a young grad. (Perhaps it’s graduation from kindergarten.) We see a girl looking out the school window, smiling. She’s all decked out in her cap and gown. But this is after we see some spreads of a rather colorless, dilapidated school, also with cracks in both the walls and pavement the building sits on.
The girl is bullied. A group of sneering fellow grads spit a seed at her through a straw. It may sting her neck, but she just looks down, retrieves it, and puts it in her pocket. Graduation then commences, covering many of the next spreads.
Then comes the metamorphosis. At the close of the story, the girl opens her locker to grab a jar filled with seeds, ones we assume have been spat upon her all year as the object of derision she seems to be. She plants one of these seeds outside between two slabs of aging concrete. Green sprouts appears, followed by a field of gorgeous yellow flowers—Parda really takes his time here in these closing illustrations, which we assume spans months or even years—until eventually the entire school is surrounded by luminous, radiant flowers. On the very last spread, Parda gives us an aerial view: We see a sea of run-down, grey buildings, save for the brilliant yellow in the center.
The girl took her pain and turned it to good, just as the young protagonist in Walk with Me does. This, as well as both books’ willingness to bring readers children in poverty (or at least not in shiny, suburban worlds), brings to my mind the most beautiful, memorable line in the 2016 Newbery winner Matt de la Peña’s and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street: "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt … you're a better witness for what's beautiful."
From Kirkus Reviews, January 17, 2017:
A subtle reminder that education is a gift no amount of bullying can spoil.
Or at least that might be the point of this wordless, metaphorical head-scratcher. In a school situated in a drab neighborhood beneath tracks that are, in the first scene, being used to ship war materiel, a graduation ceremony is about to begin. As the students, depicted as elementary-age children, line up in their gowns, one sniggering graduate shoots a seed into the back of another’s head. The victim, smiling, picks up and pockets the seed. Later, after everyone else is swept away by proud parents, the bespectacled child adds the seed to a big jar full of similar ones, which are all then taken out to the schoolyard to plant in the cracks between paving stones. Parda depicts the setting and a racially and ethnically diverse cast of children and adults in dull or neutral tones, which sets up a vivid visual contrast as the seeds sprout, grow, and finally surround the school in a shining glory of golden sunflowers. In a final view the flowers are seen to be starting to spread, and the neighborhood looks a little less run-down.
A possible discussion starter, though enigmatic to a fault.
From Publishers Weekly, January 10, 2017:
Early on in this wordless tale, one of a group of smirking schoolchildren blows a small projectile—a spitball?—across several pages until it hits a girl with stick-straight hair and thick glasses. For a moment, she frowns. Then she pockets the object and joins a line of children dressed in caps and gowns; it’s graduation day. When the ceremony is over, the girl opens her locker, takes the object out of her pocket and puts it in a jar. It’s a sunflower seed, and the jar is full of them; the bullies have been shooting them at her for months, apparently. In this lovely fable, readers discover her plan for all those seeds. Though this is a tale about bullying, Parda (The Gentleman Bat) resists the urge to moralize. Instead, he creates a character who responds to aggression with quiet resourcefulness, and without involving grownups or attempting vengeance. His watercolor and monoprint spreads recall Satoshi Kitamura; they’re built on warm, expressive black lines, making even the girl’s dreary school, with its cracked tiles and metal doors, worth a closer look. Ages 5–up