As soon as I read about it in November, I knew I wanted it.
I suggested it as a Christmas gift. But the book wasn’t officially available until December.
So I ordered A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick for my birthday. It arrived Friday – along with four other books in three packages.
I’m the sort of person who likes books about books. A Velocity of Being is not quite that. It’s better: letters about reading from authors and artists, musicians and scientists, actors and others. Each was asked to “write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.” (Maria Popova, “Introduction,” A Velocity of Being).
As if that were not enough, every letter is accompanied by a work of art created in response to that particular message. The works by illustrators, graphic designers and other artists are exquisite, adding a rich layer of interpretation to the letter.
Just a few examples:
- In the first letter Jacqueline Woodson writes of reading to her young son and impulsively kissing “the top of my son’s mohawked head.” (p. 16) Lara Hawthorne captures the moment beautifully.
- Leonard Marcus encourages us to pack books carefully when moving. “Not many things in life can be counted as ‘permanent possessions.’ But a few things can, and our favorite books are among them.” (p. 158) Julia Rothman’s illustration shows the chaos of boxes being packed to move with one carefully marked “PERMANENT POSSESSIONS.”
- “The world itself is all beautiful” Andrew Solomon writes, “but sometimes it can be hard to see that, and books let you understand moments of beauty you might otherwise miss.” (p. 100) He writes about loneliness, justice, kindness, sadness, happiness and more, two sentences at a time. Catarina Sobral used bright, bold, primary colors to portray a child whose world is upended by reading a book.
I haven’t read every letter – yet. Nor have I spent time musing over every illustration – yet. A Velocity of Being will take some time to absorb and to enjoy – one letter, one picture at a time.
Read about Maria Popova’s creative vision for the book and see some of the many exquisite illustrations by visiting her blog: A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read.