I Know Here

I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James

The little girl in this story lives in a remote area of Saskatchewan where her father is helping to build a dam.  She lives in a trailer among a group of trailers.  There are woods to play in, a creek to catch frogs, and lots of animals.  But now her family is moving to Toronto.  Her teacher in their one-room school suggests that the children draw pictures to remind them of this place.  So the girl decides that she will draw a picture of her beloved home and all that surrounds it so that she can carry it with them to her new home, safe in her pocket. 

Croza’s words are understated and so allow us to really feel the emotion coming through them.  She has captured the emotions with skill and grace, not overwhelming them, but allowing them to stand on their own.  So many children have either moved or are about to move that this book will find a welcome audience and even better will offer children a way to deal with their emotions and what they miss or will miss. 

James’ illustrations are wild at times with a giant, alien frog on one.  They have intriguing perspectives and through the deep color also help reveal the emotions of the text.  They are imaginative and fantastical, capturing a world of wonder for the reader in their paint.

Few picture books have ever moved me to tears.  This is one of them.  There was such a bittersweet tone at the end that I responded from the gut.  Beautiful.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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A deeply-felt picture book, this picture book captures a setting with

Mercury

Mercury by Hope Larson

A fascinating combination of history and fantasy, this graphic novel tells two parallel stories, both set in Nova Scotia.  Different generations of the same family, one modern and one from 1859, are played against one another.  Tara is the modern girl who is dealing with her family home burning to the ground.  Her mother has had to leave and find work elsewhere while Tara stays with a friend.  Tara has been homeschooled the last two years, and is returning to the school district that she used to attend.  She soon finds romance and magic.  Josey’s story takes place 150 years earlier.  Josey is the sheltered daughter of a farmer who is besotted when she finds herself the focus of a stranger’s attention.  The man has found gold on her father’s farm and soon the two of them enter into business together mining the gold.  Tara finds her own modern world connected to that of Josey in unexpected ways.

Larson has created an intriguing and winning book.  While the two stories are vaguely parallel in romance, they diverge quickly into very different stories.  The book is beautifully designed.  Readers will immediately understand that the historical story is bordered in black while the modern is bordered in white.  Larson’s art is welcoming and great fun to read.  She has created a story with the best of graphic novels, romance and fantasy woven seamlessly together.  The two heroines are very different people, but both romantics and both tied together in intriguing ways.  There were some characters that I wish had been more fully developed such as Tara’s mother and the family she is living with.  I think it would have made it easier to enter her world.

Highly recommended, this graphic novel is one that will easily cross borders between teens who enjoy graphic novels and those who read romance or historical fiction.  This is a great entry book into the world of graphic novels for new readers.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

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