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A is Aware of All Around Us

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” James Thurber

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The Book Review

All of a Sudden and Forever

Book Info

Title: All of a Sudden and Forever Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Nicole Xu
Publishers: Carolrhoda Books
Pub Date: Feb 4, 2020
Genre: Children’s Non-fiction
Age-Range: 7 – 11 years
Source: NetGalley eARC (and personal copy)

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A profoundly moving nonfiction picture book about tragedy, hope, and healing from award-winning author Chris Barton.
Sometimes bad things happen, and you have to tell everyone. Sometimes terrible things happen, and everybody knows. On April 19, 1995, something terrible happened in Oklahoma City: a bomb exploded, and people were hurt and killed. But that was not the end of the story. Those who survived—and those who were forever changed—shared their stories and began to heal. Near the site of the bomb blast, an American elm tree began to heal as well. People took care of the tree just as they took care of each other. The tree and its seedlings now offer solace to people around the world grappling with tragedy and loss.
Released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, this book commemorates what was lost and offers hope for the future.

My Thoughts

First Thoughts

Sometimes bad things happen, and you have to tell everyone. Sometimes terrible things happen, and everybody knows.

These are the first lines of the book and sound so much like the current times. And yet, books like this show it has happened before and we have all survived those things before to read about them today. So, yes, this is a somber story, but it is a story of hope, of the implicit trust each of us have in humanity, of the trust we place in each other.

And then more

The book starts off with a brief narrative of what happened on the day of the bombing and then shifts to what happened and continues to happen after. I love that the book focuses on the aftermath of the tragedy and shows the impact of this event on those who remained, on the ones who lost loved ones in the tragedy. It also emphasizes the strength and resilience of the survivors including the Survivor Tree – the elm tree that survived the blast.

I certainly did not know about this tree until I read the book, and it was inspiring to find out about it. The Survivor Tree continues to provide hope and growth through its seedlings.

The Illustrations

Nicole Xu’s hauntingly beautiful ink and Photoshop illustrations capture the mood of the text perfectly, whether it be in gray and black tones to show the bombing itself or somber shades like gray and brown to capture the grief or additions of blues and greens to show the green seedlings of hope. The faceless renditions of people conveys a universality of all these feelings (the grief, the suffering, the terror, the trauma as well as the strength, the resilience, the help, the hope, the comfort).

Additional Notes

While the book notes that other tragedies will occur, it also shows through both powerful yet simple text and the accompanying illustrations that there is always hope, and there is always help.

The appendix includes author and illustrator notes, brief biographies of individuals interviewed for this, as well as additional resources that readers can use (a bibliography of books about community strength and internet resources).

In Summary

A must read. This is a wonderful resource to engage in conversations with children regarding tragedy, terror, grief, helping and healing the community, and hope. And while different, it is somehow a timely and timeless lesson too.

Note: Considering the subject matter, I would let parents and caregivers read the book first and then pass it on to their young readers, especially the youngest ones since you know your young ones best.

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the eARC of the book; these are my honest opinions after reading this book.

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Picture Book Review: All of a Sudden and Forever

Author: Chris Barton

Chris Barton is the author of acclaimed nonfiction picture books including Dazzle Ships, Whoosh!, What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, and The Day-Glo Brothers, which was awarded a Sibert Honor. Chris lives in Austin, Texas, with his family. Visit his website at

Illustrator: Nicole Xu

Nicole Xu is an illustrator who was born in Shanghai, China, and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She attended Rhode Island School of Design and has worked with numerous newspaper and magazine clients. Her work often explores themes of loss, healing, and empathy. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her dog, and this is her debut picture book. See more of her art at

The ‘A’ Book Stack

This is a stack of most of the ‘A’ books at home. A couple got missed as my dd arranged them and took these pics for me, while there are others that I did not include (definitely the text books we have, some other books which are obviously hiding somewhere, and a few others – mainly comics and graphic novels or parts of a series).

all the A books!

The Books

  • All About Words
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  • The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
  • Almost Single by Advaita Kala
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Archie’s Double Digest (one of many)
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Aesop’s Fables by Aesop
  • The Age of Chivalry (Bulfinch Mythology)
  • The Age of Fable (Bulfinch Mythology)
  • Adventure Divas by Holly Morris
  • The Anybodies by Juliana Baggott
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish
  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants (pictured
  • ABCs of Nature (not pictured)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (not pictured)

Quick Thoughts

While I have not read all the books here (gasp), the ones I have (bolded above), I have loved. My son read the Hank Green book and he did not enjoy it as much as he thought he would (I am yet to read it). I will add links where relevant over the next few days.

Random Thing(s) of the Day

Apples are more efficient than caffeine in keeping people awake in the mornings!

Accommodating Squares: Can you find two three-digit square numbers (no zeros) that, when put together, will form a six-digit square number? For example, 324 and 900 (both squares – of 18 and 30) make 324,900 (the square of 570). Note that this example has two zeros. There is only one answer. Let me know in the comments. I will publish comments with answers a couple of days later.

And now, the End of this Post

“Awareness allows us to get outside of our mind and observe it in action.” Dan Brule

Dear reader, so this was day 1 of the challenges! Welcome to all the UBCers and the AtoZers!

Which of the pictured/featured books have you read? Your comments on them? Do let me know

For previous posts, click on the links below:


Linking up to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, and the Ultimate Blog Challenge (click on the images to learn more about these challenges)

ultimate blog challenge

8 thoughts on “A is Aware of All Around Us

  1. Of the books listed above, I’ve read:
    “All Creatures Great and Small,” by James Herriott. It is a delightful book about a veterinarian who joins a rural practice in England. He meets all sorts of characters, as well as the brother veterinarians (the older one owns the practice), and he finds a wife and a home.
    “Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy. Big, dramatic, and very Russian!
    “And the Mountains Echoed,” by Khaled Hosseini
    “Aesop’s Fables,” by Aesop
    “Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain.
    Oh, speaking about Mark Twain, he lived for a short time in Buffalo, New York, where he was the editor of The Buffalo Express. Unfortunately, his time in Buffalo was not happy, as he suffered tragedy in his family, so he and his family moved away. I think that they moved to Connecticut, and he wrote
    “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” there.
    (I love books!!! Thank you for the wonderfully insightful review!)

  2. What an interesting story! As you indicated, I too only knew of the bombing and not much of the aftermath. There is always hope in times of turmoil. These times we need to have hope. Lots of it.

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