All the Beating Hearts

“We are all just hearts / beating in the darkness.” In All the Beating Hearts, poet Julie Fogliano and illustrator Cátia Chien take readers on an impressionistic journey through a single day, capturing the interior and exterior worlds of humans. 

Fogliano’s text captures joy, wonder, tedium and sorrow. “Each day starts with the sun / and hopefully something to eat,” Fogliano writes, acknowledging food scarcity. Most of us spend our days on the move, spending our hours on “work / or play / or work AND PLAY.” Some days are filled with love, and “some days we will curl up / and wish to be / any / other / place.” 

When night arrives, we slip into dreams, and our hearts beat with the message that “we are here / and alive / together but apart / the same, but exactly different.” Fogliano repeats that phrase, “the same, but exactly different” toward the end of the book as well, offering a refreshing antidote to the we’re-not-so-different platitudes of seemingly progressive picture books that, in practice, deny differences such as race, gender and disability. 

Chien meets Fogliano’s evocative words with lush, atmospheric illustrations awash with color. In a wordless spread depicting a night of dreams, children float in an abstract cloud rendered in warm shades of rose and yellow, surrounded by scribbled amorphous creatures. In another spread, a child illustrated in full color and backlit by a bright light stands in a crowd of people all drawn in jagged shades of gray. “Everyone is busy being / everywhere and everything else / and all those beating hearts / are still there, but struggling / to be heard above it all.” 

The connections between those hearts, which beat within us “strong and steady and sure,” is the stuff of life, Fogliano seems to be saying. This tender, compassionate picture book invites readers to ponder this notion with wonder—and all of their hearts.  

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