This lovely book tells the story of a little boy named James Otis, who, along with his mother, is enduring hard times since the death of his dad and loss of their farm. They now live in a run-down house with few possessions. But Mama tries to remain upbeat:
“‘Long as we have our health and strength, we are blessed, James Otis,’ Mama said, tryin’ to sound brave.”
Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, the reverend at their church announced:
“Just as we always do, we’ll be delivering love boxes to needy folk in our community.”
He asked them to add Irene Temple and her young daughter to their list, because they just lost everything in a fire. He told them:
“Remember, what is given from the heart reaches the heart.”
Mama encourages James Otis to come up with something for the little girl, even though they have so little themselves. He considers everything he might give, but none of it seems right. Then he comes up with a great idea.
While this story for ages 4-10 was touching enough to make me cry, it was the outstanding artwork by April Harrison that really held my attention. April Harrison, a designer, used collage, mixed media, dappling, and a muted but gorgeous palette to illustrate the characters and the supportive relationships among them. The flat perspective employed by Harrison ironically imbues strength into the characters.
Note: Patricia McKissack, a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author, passed away in 2017, and this was her last book.
Evaluation: This book touches on many subjects children may face, including death of loved ones, poverty, friendship, compassion, and faith. All of it is expertly dealt with in a subtle but effective way. Highly recommended.
Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House, 2019