Standing in the Other’s Shoes

shoes© Durga Yael Bernhard

The illustration shown here is the very last one in my brand new crossover book, Love Is.  It’s also the first one I drew, over ten years ago when I first created the proposal, with a few sample images.  This is also the only illustration that was never redone.  I felt I caught the rapport between these two fellows just right, and I didn’t want to change it.

As mentioned in last week’s post, Love Is is my first crossover book – not only in terms of reader age – it’s for both children and adults – but also in terms of merchandise category – it’s both a picture book and a greeting card booklet that comes with a mailing envelope. A double experiment!  With a theme as universal as love, I hope this book will appeal to everyone with its gentle humor and cheerful depiction of relationships.

But pleasing everyone in this day and age is not so simple.  As a children’s book illustrator, I’m used to contending with the laws of political correctness that rule the juvenile publishing industry.  From covering up the crimes of the Inquisition to whitewashing the poverty of native Americans, from showing a child in a life jacket in order to protect the publisher from potential lawsuits to contriving images that are flattering to racial minorities – I’ve navigated this minefield for over twenty five years.  It’s enough to make me roll my eyes sometimes, as editors scramble to create books that won’t offend anyone – even though the world our children are growing up in isn’t like that.  Yet we must still strive to show what is right, with equal consideration for all.

With all this in mind, imagine my struggle to come up with the right pair of opposites for the final phrase of the rhyming poem that makes up the text: Love is standing in EVERYONE’S shoes, reads the final page.  It is an act of compassion, after all, to experience – or even imagine – the lives of others.  After much consideration, I rejected the most common polarities that form the cultural, economic, and racial gaps in our society, and finally decided on the rural/urban dichotomy.  After all, my own community here in the Catskills is a mix of city and country folk.  But more than just a country man and a city man, this illustration depicts a cowboy and a businessman – one man working with his body, with animals, in the great outdoors; and the other with his head, in the indoor world of numbers and computers.  These two men have just changed shoes, with both hesitation and humor – and yet clearly, though they both look a bit ridiculous, they’re still friends.  Is such a thing possible?  I say yes!  My crossover book has crossed yet another boundary – that which divides one group of people from another.


I hope you’ll consider buying a copy of Love Is for your loved ones.  It makes a great Valentine’s Day gift!  Just $8.95 in my webstore, shipping and mailing envelope included.

I’ll end this post with my favorite proverb:

Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.
That way, when you do judge him, you’ll be a mile away –
and you’ll have his shoes.


A good week to all!


D Yael Bernhard

Author / Illustrator of
LOVE ISNew! – a unique crossover book for all ages
THE LIFE OF AN OLIVENew!! Explore the life of a 2000-year-old olive tree
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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