“Remarkable rhyming and imaginative illustrating make this a notable title in the well-worn road of stories about life's journey.”
In this inspiring tale from Miller and Wheeler, roads are used as an apt metaphor for the journey of life. Roads lead out the front door to new experiences, new friendships, new discoveries, and, when the time is right, back home again. Initially the road’s path is described in mere physical characteristics. Roads take you “Over a hill, / under a bridge, / deep in a valley, / high on a ridge.” But then the meaning of the road turns deeper, clearly symbolizing the journeys of life. “Bringing you closer, / then curving away. / You always have choices. / To go? / Or to stay?” Miller demonstrates mastery of cadence and perfect rhymes, and her rhyming selections are refreshingly original. To a fault, the roads of the journey are unimpeded, with only a mention of looking back at the end of the road to see where we “tripped” along the way. Wheeler’s illustrations are superb and consistent with the tone of the poem as readers pass through space and time on the journey of life. Her use of warm lighting portrays the reflective nature of the poem, whether it’s the soft glow from lights inside buildings and homes or the colorful rays of sunsets and sunrises. Her illustrations are nostalgically hyperbolic: tall-masted ships, teal country huts with straw roofs, ornate bridges and city skylines. There’s even a treehouse village tucked away in leaves turned purple in the dim light of dusk. While her color palette is not realistic, it is incredibly fitting. At times she depicts the ocean in soft pinks, while later it’s blue. The detailed tableaus she includes throughout make for delightful new discoveries with each re-reading of the book.
Roads give you chances to seek and explore. Want an adventure? Just open your door. Join an adventurous rabbit and his animal friends as they journey over steep mountain peaks, through bustling cityscapes, and down long, winding roads to discover the magical worlds that await them just outside their doors. Award-winning author Pat Zietlow Miller’s lilting rhyme and bestselling illustrator Eliza Wheeler’s enchanting, lush landscapes celebrate the possibilities that lie beyond the next bend in the road–the same road that will always lead you home again.
Pat Zietlow Miller is a bestselling children’s book author. She is the author of Sophie’s Squash, which was starred by Kirkus, Booklist, SLJ, and PW, as well as awarded the 2014 Crystal Kite Award, the 2014 Golden Kite Award, a 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Honor, and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor. Her second book, Wherever You Go, received two starred reviews and has sold in multiple translations. She is also the author of Sharing the Bread, Sophie’s Squash Goes to School, and The Quickest Kid in Clarksville.
Pat, how did you come up with the idea for the story?
I wrote this book while my daughter was in high school. I thought about the advice and love I wanted to send her into the world with, and those thoughts became WHEREVER YOU GO. The book is also dedicated to her. And, it was published the year she graduated, so the timing was perfect.
The rhyming and cadence of the book are exceptional. We know you describe writing a children’s book as “verbal Sudoku.” Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, from initial draft to polished manuscript?
The first two lines came to me randomly when I wasn’t writing or thinking about writing. I wrote them down and then started working on them in earnest. I find writing rhyme to be much more difficult than writing prose, so it took many drafts and many long hours of staring at my computer and tapping out the beat on the table to get the language where I wanted. I wanted each action the road took to mirror a life stage or a life choice, so I did a lot of Google searches looking for various landscape words. After I had a version I was pleased with, the book’s initial editor, Connie Hsu, provided invaluable feedback to make it even better.
The message and story is both fun for kids but also very mature and really connects with and speaks to adults. What audience did you have in mind as you worked on the story?
Even though I was thinking about my daughter as I wrote, I wanted it to be a book for younger children too. So I used the theme of traveling and roads. I hoped older teens and adults would see it as a metaphor of life’s journey and younger readers would get a sense of all the possibilities waiting for them.
WHEREVER YOU GO really comes alive through Eliza Wheeler’s wonderful illustrations. As an author, how do you feel when you see illustrations for your story for the first time? Do you have any input on illustrations?
My favorite part of writing a book is seeing which illustrator the publisher matches me with and then seeing what he or she creates after reading my words. I was thrilled when I saw the rabbit and the other animals Eliza envisioned. I initially assumed the book would feature people. But once I saw the animals, I couldn’t picture it any other way. I usually don’t have much input on the art. If I see something that concerns me, I will mention it, but that’s a rare occasion. Eliza did a marvelous job of bringing everything to life with her glorious, detailed artwork. I find something new to admire every time I pick up the book.