NOTHING IN COMMON by Kate Hoefler and Corinna Luyken
When I think about my most recent picture book collaboration, NOTHING IN COMMON, written by Kate Hoefler, and when I am asked to describe the book, I have found myself rambling on a bit. Not entirely sure how to describe it. Certainly, it’s a book about two kids, an old man, and a dog. There’s also a hot air balloon, and a hint of magic. But ultimately, when I think about the book, I think about a question: What does it mean to not have something in common with another person? With another human being?
Structurally, this is a story about two kids, introverts perhaps, who go out looking for something that has been lost. But also, this is also a story about two kids who are very good at something. They are good at noticing. Noticing other people. Noticing strangers. Noticing the world around them. And as the story unfolds, it turns out they are both very good at something else— caring. Caring about other people. Caring about strangers, and in this way, caring about the world around them.
Ultimately, this is a story about commonality and about finding connection— in unexpected ways. It is about our assumptions about other people, but also, our assumptions about ourselves—and how they can be wrong.
To me, this is also a book about how, sometimes a lasting connection with another human being can sneak up on you. It can happen quietly, slowly. And when it happens, in many ways, in can be NOT about you, NOT about what you are like or what you do like or even what you dislike. We have this misperception, sometimes, that commonality is about liking the same things or being interested in the same activities. That this gives you something “in common.” But more often, I think, caring is the true common ground. And caring can connect us in surprising ways.
In this book, caring about someone else’s suffering (that of an old man and his dog) is enough to unite two children who seem, at first glance, to have nothing that connects them.
As I pay attention to the world around me these days, I am struck by how Kate has written such a timely story. In a country where we find ourselves more and more deeply divided, focusing on what we don’t have in common with the people around us, the people we share our country and our planet with; the people whose children will inherit this country and this planet just as ours will… I wonder.
I wonder about our belief systems. I wonder about the future our children are inheriting. I wonder about how we are, collectively, with everything we do and say and don’t say, handing a worldview down to our children. My hope, and I think Kate’s hope, is that this book is a doorway into the kinds of conversations that we need to be having with our children— as parents, as teachers, as librarians, as friends— if we want to create a better, more connected, common future for us all.
Corinna Luyken is the author-illustrator of the NY Times bestseller, MY HEART; as well as THE BOOK OF MISTAKES, which received four starred reviews and has been praised by Entertainment Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and more. She also illustrated ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE, written by Marcy Campbell; WEIRD LITTLE ROBOTS, written by Carolyn Crimi; and NOTHING IN COMMON, written by Kate Hoefler. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband, daughter, and two cats.