By Lois Lowry
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
One of my favorite new pastimes is to go to the bookstore with my friend and coworker (who also happens to be a children’s librarian) and park ourselves in the children’s section. This past visit we spent passing picture books back and forth; sometimes we raid the young adult shelves. This time I picked Lowry’s newest book off the display, to my friend’s disdain. I had read the first few pages in another setting and got distracted by something shiny so I’d been meaning to finish it anyway. I would have given it 5 stars; the only reason for the half-star reduction is my friend’s explanation that she didn’t know who she would give it to. We usually think of picture books as being for very young children, but the subject matter of death and a parent returning from war is for older – or at least mature – kids.
However, at the elementary school we have been discussing the Caldecott in preparation for the kids’ mock Caldecott award, so I’ve been learning a lot about picture books in general and the illustrations specifically. One of the things I learned is that Caldecotts are awarded to picture books for “children up to and including fourteen years old.” It amazed me to learn that picture books can be intended for children that old (and honestly, I’m uneasy with the term “child” being used for teenagers, but that’s another conversation), but that is who I would say her audience is – maybe ages ten and up. As I told my friend, there are lots of kids whose parents are just returning from war who would totally get this book, even young kids. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and really took the storytelling to a new level. I wouldn’t be surprised if it earned itself a Caldecott!