Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

I Am Smoke

Book Details

Genre & Age: Creative nonfiction picture book (ages 6-8)
Format: Hardcover, 36 pages, 9.25″ x 11″
Publisher: Tilbury House
ISBN: 978-0884487883

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Little Red Cuttlefish Goodreads Reviews

I AM SMOKE is a spare, lyrical, “autobiographical” account of the life cycle and beneficial uses of smoke across the globe and throughout the ages. The creative nonfiction picture book offers science, history, and global cultural studies appeal to young readers.

Smoke speaks in mesmerizing riddles: “I lack a mouth, but I can speak. I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests. I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm.” When smoke speaks, its messages swirl and shift like smoke itself—playful, challenging, devious. Smoke has been borne aloft from flames, and its elements returned to earth, since before recorded time. Its cycles never end. Smoke was here before us. It helps us when we’re wise but hurts us when we’re careless. Do not treat me lightly, it seems to warn.

This rhythmically powerful narration is complemented by illustrations in which swirling smoke was captured on art paper held over smoky candle flames, and the dancing smoke textures were then deepened and elaborated with watercolors and Photoshop finishes. With this unique method, illustrator Merce López “let the smoke decide how the idea I had in mind would dance with it, giving freedom to the images.” The resulting illustrations are astounding, and they resonate with the otherworldly text.


“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.”
– John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

“A fascinating, refreshing, and beautifully atmospheric take on something often taken for granted. I’ll never look at smoke the same way again!”
– Matthew Cordell, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning book WOLF IN SNOW

“I Am Smoke is an absolutely beautiful book, where smoke is both poetry and science. Readers will rest, float, and dance along with smoke’s quiet power across time and traditions. I have lingered over its pages more than once, and I’m sure young readers will, too.”
– Doreen Cronin, author of the Caldecott Honor and NY Times bestselling book CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE

– Raina Telgemeier, #1 NY Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Publishers Weekly bestselling author/illustrator 

Kirkus starred review: “Within this exquisitely beautiful melding of science and poetry is a ton of trust: trust that readers will absorb the intricate, evocative prose; trust they will utilize the comprehensive backmatter; and trust that readers will reconsider something as ubiquitous as smoke afresh. Using sparse but potent text, author Herz presents smoke as a “swirling, roiling mist” vital to nature and to humans; it’s as important in its mundanity as it soothes bees or flavors food as it is in the sacred, when smoke “participates in prayer” through incense. It’s a high-level presentation, but inquisitive readers will enjoy connecting the lyrical lines with the thorough backmatter. Mystically multilayered illustrations combine perfectly with the text’s reverential tone. A unique technique uses images created from smoke itself and are then collaged with Photoshop and watercolor. The result is gossamer landscapes decorated with molecular structures as well as homey scenes of Greeks fumigating temples. Spreads of smoke rising fluidly into a pinprick-starry sky, a “dark dance from every campfire,” are veritable gems. Moving scenes involving humans include impressionistic images of various religions worshipping and a Huron child planting pumpkin seeds. Smoke dissipates quickly, but this poetic text will linger.”


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