Children’s Book News: January 2020

Happy New Year!  A new year brings new experiences and the proverbial opportunity for changes and fresh beginnings.  Below are books, which carry within them characters who find themselves needing to adapt to new chapters in their lives and, in the process, experiencing growth and acceptance.

Forever or a Long, Long Time

by Caela Carter

Suggested ages: 8-12 years

Here is an extremely sensitive portrayal of two siblings, Flora and Julian, who have experienced multiple foster families.  We see their days and experience their feelings through the eyes of Flora, the elder of the two.  The book opens with the two now living in a loving home, having been adopted by a single mother who later marries. Flora and Julian love mom (or Person as Flora mentally refers to her, for she has had so many mommies, her head can’t keep them straight) but fear that their new lives are only temporary. They can’t comprehend a “forever.”   With a new baby on the horizon for the family and Flora about to complete 4th grade, which means leaving her beloved teacher, changes abound.  Then there is Elena, her new father’s daughter, who seems like an intrusion to the “family” that Flora and Julian have at last become a part of.  Intertwined in the story is the vital search for their past history, because Flora and Julian are certain they are “never-born siblings.”    The poetic yet realistic language and thoughts which Flora expresses move the reader emotionally and successfully open a window into the mind of a foster child.  This is a skillfully rendered novel of the importance of family and the need to be loved. 

The Deaf Musicians

by Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs, illustrations by R. Gregory Christie

Suggested ages: 4-8 years

Lee is a pianist who plays nightly with a jazz quartet. However, when he looses his hearing, he can’t play off the notes of the others and soon loses his job. Lee realizes he needs to turn to something new and begins learning sign language. At the school for the deaf he connects with a deaf saxophonist and soon they are rapping beats using sign. Joined by others, they find that music knows no boundaries. It brings individuals together and provides a path for new beginnings. Christie’s dynamic art along with Seeger’s rhythmic narrative echoes the liveliness of jazz. A perfect book to read aloud along with a bit of jazz playing in the background!

Big Cat, Little Cat

written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper

Suggested ages: 3-6 years

A small black cat joins a grown, solitary white cat, and so, a fast friendship is formed. They share the routines and joys of their days together.  As is inevitable, life moves on and one day the now grown black cat finds she herself is alone.  Her sadness is shared with her family, illustrated simply by a family silhouette.  Eventually, a small white cat appears and thus a new bond is formed. 

The circle of life and new beginnings are serenely presented in this picture book of few words along with black and white illustrations.  The pictures show only the two cats – little background is detailed – to focus the child reader on the relationship of the big and little cats.

A moving story told directly and simply deservedly received a 2018 Caldecott Honor award.