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Choose Your Days

Kirkus Reviews 1 Stars
This is the kind of book that will stick with readers, a meditation that they may not understand now but that, if digested, could have magical results.
With the help of Old Bear, Corky lives her life intentionally. Old Bear is the “keeper of time and keys,” and when Corky is born, the big, pillowy-looking old ursine gives the little dark-haired, white child her days, two empty lists (one for dreams and one for things to do), her key, and a simple, whispered instruction: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” She takes it seriously. Waking up beneath a clock with an urgent reminder instead of numbers — “Get up! You have stuff to do. Get up!” — Corky grows, moving from tricycle to two-wheeler, aging and becoming stooped over the course of two double-page spreads backgrounded with painterly strokes of aquamarine. Even aged, Corky still wants to pursue “work undone … play postponed … music unsung,” but eventually she must use her key to unlock the door to death, where Old Bear is waiting comfortingly. Wallace’s illustrations are metaphorical and cozy, her pointy-nosed protagonist perpetually clad in red shoes and scarf, striped stockings, and a comfy brown dress. Generous white space encompasses both protagonist and symbols of passing time (calendar pages, the stub of a pencil), giving children the emotional room to contemplate Corky's progress. This is the kind of book that will stick with readers, a meditation that they may not understand now but that, if digested, could have magical results.
- February 1, 2016  Visit Website
Publishers Weekly
[Paula] Wallace’s language and imagery can be both playful and enigmatic—this is a story that challenges readers to think, rather than hitting them over the head with obvious messages and directives.
Nebraska-based artist Wallace quietly exhorts readers to make the most of their time on Earth as she follows a girl named Corky from her birth to the other end of her lifespan. Wallace's language and imagery can be both playful and enigmatic—this is a story that challenges readers to think, rather than hitting them over the head with obvious messages and directives. After Corky is born, she is visited by Old Bear, "keeper of time and keys," and a deity of sorts. He leaves her with a "calendar for all of her days," lists to be filled with dreams and actions, and some advice: "Choose your days, make them sunny or gray." Wispy paintings chart Corky's growth in a lovely sequence of pages that shows her riding tricycles and bicycles as she ages into an elderly woman with a kerchief and cane. She asks Old Bear for more time, "For work undone. For play postponed. For music unsung," and while she doesn't appear to get any additional time, she does eke out a few last adventures. It's never too late, Wallace suggests, until it is. Ages 3–7.
- March 1, 2016  Visit Website
Booklist Online
Sparse in both concept and execution, this gentle tale prods readers to make mindful choices and focus on the things that truly matter.
Upon her birth, Corky receives a calendar marking her days and a special list of things to dream and do from a bespectacled old bear. And, handing her a key, the bear tells her, “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” And so Corky lives out her days until she is old and bent, realizing too late that she has not used her time wisely enough. With a few old pennies, she buys herself a bit more time to finish things undone, until, finally, Corky meets wise Bear for one last journey. Sparse in both concept and execution, this gentle tale prods readers to make mindful choices and focus on the things that truly matter. The illustrations are stripped down to the barest essentials, but the warm palette, richly textured brushstrokes, and stylized figures radiate a cozy warmth. With clocks that warn, “I’m afraid your time is up,” the pages of this subdued story offer an antidote to the urgency of busy modern lives.
- April 1, 2016  Visit Website
Reading Style Guide
This is an enchanting picture book with absolutely delightful illustrations. … It would be an excellent gift for someone dealing with a personal crisis, surviving a loss, or starting a new chapter in life.
A Different Sort of Book — Choose Your Days By Paula S. Wallace

Have you ever found yourself searching up and down the huge display of greeting cards, seeking for just the right card? Sometimes an event and the intended recipient are so unique, that there is no pre-printed card to accurately express the message you wish to convey.
I recently discovered a solution for this dilemma: ​“Choose Your Days” by Paula S. Wallace.

This is an enchanting picture book with absolutely delightful illustrations. The message is appropriate for children. But the book may resonate more deeply with adults who have weathered the passage of time. It would be an excellent gift for someone dealing with a personal crisis, surviving a loss, or starting a new chapter in life. Meet Corky, who on the day of her birth is presented with calendars for all of her days. The days come and go. Corky grows. The calendar pages diminish. Eventually only a precious few of her allotted days remain in the balance. She decides to make her remaining days "sunny" by filling them with those things that bring her joy. With warm and touching illustrations, Wallace brings the close of Corky's life to a satisfying and heartwarming conclusion.

I picture myself sending copies to individuals for whom there is no greeting card on earth that distills the moment in quite the way that this book does. I'm stocking up on gift copies right now.
When a greeting card is not enough/not quite right, this charming little book will be the perfect expression.

BONUS: Paula S Wallace is one talented artist. I was fascinated to learn that she originally created a series of paintings of an individual she named Corky. After she had 35 Corky paintings, the story became clear to her. It was through art that Corky's life revealed itself. Ah! The power of images.
- March 25, 2016  Visit Website
Darlene Beck Jacobson
Choose Your Days It is a tender and hopeful picture book for adults as well as children. … Anyone who fears death will find the peaceful and thoughtful message a welcome one.
Choose Your Days is a tender and hopeful picture book for adults as well as children. [Paula] Wallace respectfully addresses a topic not often discussed in picture books: death. Its simple message is to “make the most of the time you are given, and when the end has come, do not be afraid. Each of us holds a key to how we live our life.” It really resonated with me. Anyone who fears death will find the peaceful and thoughtful message a welcome one.
- Darlene Beck Jacobson , April 11, 2016  Visit Website
School Library Journal
A whimsical, philosophical selection.
Old Bear is there when Corky is born, and as he is the keeper of time and keys, he provides her with calendars for all her days. And so Corky lives, filling her lists of things to dream and to do, her growth to old age portrayed by two spreads of bike riding: a tricycle with a teddy bear, and a two-wheeler with a cane propped on the back tire. With just a few days left, Corky asks Old Bear for more time, to find that she holds the key and can choose how she fills the remainder of her days. Though the large stretches of color and organic shapes painted with heavy brushstrokes have visual kid appeal, younger readers may not be able to grasp the sophisticated themes of aging, living life to the fullest, and accepting death of any kind of change with grace. Verdict: A whimsical, philosophical selection, though the spiritual metaphor misses the mark.
- May 15, 2016  Visit Website
BookDragon by the Smithsonian
Choose Your Days is so many good and meaningful things. But most of all, it’s a gift.
Choose Your Days is so many good and meaningful things. But most of all, it’s a gift.

When Corky is born, Old Bear—bespectacled, wise, never far—appears by her side. As the “keeper of time and keys,” he tells her, “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” Echoing his advice, Corky cycles through her life—literally—moving (and maturing) from tricycle to bike, until she’s a bit stooped over, but still whooshing on two wheels. Nearing the end, she asks “for a bit more of time” from Old Bear, “For work undone. For play postponed. For music unsung.” Old Bear reminds her that she “hold[s] the key,” the one he presented her at birth, the one that gave her full agency in how she chose to fill her days. So in the time she has left, Corky continues her adventures until she finally stands before the welcome mat that gently reminds, “Do not be afraid” …

In her “Artist’s Statement” that accompanied the book from spirited Texan indie publisher Cinco Puntos Press, creator Paula Wallace reveals the genesis of her simple, powerful book—of how she responded to a friend’s sudden loss through painting, how much that process helped her accept losing her own Corky, how she eventually created a 30-piece series “with a narrative of their own.” Visitors responded with their tears—and even more so with their hearts. That her creation would become a book was inevitable, first as a limited gallery edition, and now easily accessible and available as a gift for all.

Don’t let that back label of “Children’s Fiction” fool you … “sunny or gray” is an everyday choice for every one of us. In the time we have left before that “door of wonder” beckons, how will we fill our lists of dreams, which ‘to-do’s will we have checked off? Choose your days—with curiosity and joy, with caring and understanding, with daring and courage, too.
- Terry Hong , April 28, 2016  Visit Website
Midwest Book Review
The ending of Corky's beautiful story comes in spare, poetic words and expressive, sensitive paintings that evoke the lobe of beauty and the transitory nature of life. Together paintings and poetic text tells a mystic tale that is unforgettable.
Choose Your Days is a deeply touching catalog of paintings, outlining a tender story about a girl named Corky, who was "given calendars for all of her days by Old Bear, keeper of time and keys." Corky was also given a list, "to dream and to do - to mark each day and to name each line." Corky was given the joyous opportunity to choose her days, to make them sunny or gray. Lovely paintings illustrate Corky as she grows through her sunny days as a child, then as a grown up woman, and finally as an old woman. As the end of Corky's calendar drew near, she offered Old Bear a small purse of coins for a few more days, "For work undone. For play postponed. For music unsung." Old Bear leaned close to hear her request, reminding her "You hold the key." The ending of Corky's beautiful story comes in spare, poetic words and expressive, sensitive paintings that evoke the lobe of beauty and the transitory nature of life. Together paintings and poetic text tells a mystic tale that is unforgettable. "And when the play is played, and the songs are sung, when the seas are sailed, and the work is done. Go into the dark cottage. Unlock the door - the door to wonder. Do not be afraid. I will wait for you there." Choose Your Days is a book for all ages, about cherishing and releasing life with joy.
- July 1, 2016  Visit Website
Foreword Reviews
Choose Your Days is a story about finding wonderment and joy. … Though simply written, the book is powerful. The illustrations are beautiful and tell a far more complete story than the words alone.
- April 25, 2016 
Bookseller Reviews
Titles like this that remind me what a miraculous gift books are; to all of us. Choose Your Days is absolute treasure. —Holly, at Seattle’s Elliot Bay
Choose Your Days is a picture book about living and about passing over. The illustrations alone bring smiles and tears. With the words it is a breath taking book experience that lends perspective to the day and becomes mystically comforting as the calendar progresses. It is truly unforgettable because the message is universal and we each are unique. —Connie Griffin, Bookworks in Albuquerque
Omaha World-Herald
Out of heartache, Paula Wallace created a book full of hope. —Sarah Bakerhansen
Out of heartache, Paula Wallace created a book full of hope
By Sarah Bakerhansen, Omaha World-Herald

Omaha artist Paula Wallace finished 35 paintings before she figured out the story behind “Choose Your Days,” a book she’s been working on since 2012 that will come out in print this spring.
Wallace, who works out of a studio in the Hot Shops Art Center in north downtown, said the idea for the story began when a close friend of hers had a friend die of cancer. Wallace wanted to express condolences for her friend’s loss, but found herself at a loss over how to do it right.
“We all know heartache when we lose someone who is really close to us,” she said.
She thought about illustrating a poem, but the work felt too sad. Her goal wasn’t sadness, though, it was hope.
“Thirty-five paintings later, one thing led to another, and it just sort of ballooned,” she said.
Wallace created a series of characters in those 35 works she made during the course of a summer and, in her studio, laid them in a loose chronological order. A story started forming in her head. That same afternoon, some visitors stopped into her studio and asked her about the paintings, so she told them the story.
“By the end, they were crying,” she said.
That happened again and again, so much so that Wallace decided to make the paintings into a book. She gave one to the friend who inspired the work in the first place and printed a few more. She showed the pieces at the now-closed Dundee Gallery in 2012 and sold some books then.
She showed more work at The Josie Harper Hospice House; there, she included the text on the walls so viewers could read the story. She’s had friends translate her text into both Italian and Spanish.
“I was kind of amazed at how popular it was,” she said.
That fall, a friend suggested that she submit it to a publisher. Though she was hesitant, she did.
She continued to work on the book off and on, stretching the story with more illustrations. Years passed and Wallace worked on other projects, but the book kept popping up.
People kept connecting with Wallace’s story, about a girl called Corky, named after a woman Wallace considered a second mother. As a child, Old Bear, another character in the story, gives Corky the keys to all her days, a list of things to do and a list of things to dream. She grows, and as her days grow short, she returns to Old Bear to ask for more days. Old Bear reminds her that she holds the keys to all her days — whatever they might be.
Wallace kept in touch with the publisher, Cinco Puntos Press, and finally, it picked up her book, what she calls a “picture book for adults.” It will be released this spring.
“We are all given so much time, and we have the choice about how we approach our day,” Wallace said. “Here are your days. Make them sunny or gray.”
- February 1, 2016  Visit Website

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