The Circles All Around Us

By Brad Montague, illustrations by Brad and Kristi Montague. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 32 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 35.

Draw a circle, build your own world: in this picture book, a big idea is shared between an adult and a child. This is a story about growing up in loving circles. A child is born with a loving heart into a circle of one. That small circle soon grows to include family, whose loving care helps a child grow stronger. The choice to build even larger circles belongs to the child. This book shares ways that bigger circles may be drawn as the child grows to make bigger loving communities. On one page, the child hands out “Friendship Donuts” to all their new friends.

This book invites discussion: What do the pictures and words mean about themes of universal importance: acceptance, understanding, sharing, and helping to make the world a better place for everyone? Brad Montague believes “the world is better when kids and adults dream, create, and read together.” Hand-lettered text by the author is enhanced by carefree illustrations using analog and digital elements.

The best way to use the book is as a read aloud to stimulate conversation. It would be valuable in a small Quaker classroom or school classroom. The concept of drawing circles is useful, although not a new idea. Whom do you invite into your circles? Who is left out? How can you expand the circle? This book makes a fine gift for a new baby, a birthday, an older child meeting a new sibling, or even one leaving home for the first time. 

This book reminded me of a circle some of us helped form in Detroit in 1976. Several Quaker families moved into our neighborhood and built a generous community of friendship and comfort which endured for 20 years even though Friends and friends moved in and out of the city. Its Friday night potluck lasted all that time as we enjoyed fellowship over brown rice, international dishes, mac and cheese, and many desserts. Lasting friendships were formed. It has been my most memorable circle ever.

As I write this review, the pandemic is still with us. Our circles are carefully constructed, expanded with difficulty. But there are still ways for love to be shared. The Montague website, montagueworkshop.com, has many resources for families and teachers that are applicable for a wide age range. The Montagues say, “We are on a mission to create stories that cultivate empathy and imagination in kids and former kids.”

Do you know Edwin Markham’s epigraph from long ago?

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!


Margaret T. Walden and other members of Cleveland (Ohio) Meeting are wishing they could share soup and fellowship in person after the rise of meeting. Margaret is a retired librarian from Friends School in Detroit, but not retired from reading.

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