Neville by Norton Juster, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
This story about a boy moving to a new place will speak to any child who has had to move. The boy was never asked by his family if he wanted to move, he just got told that they were. Now he had to move into a new house and go to a new school, and worst of all, find new friends. His mother suggested that he go for a walk, so he did, very reluctantly. After he walked for awhile, he turned around and called out: “Neville!” Nothing happened. He did it again and again. Then another boy joined him and they shouted together. More children arrived and they all began calling for Neville. Even the dogs were howling along. When they stopped to catch their breath, the children started asking about who Neville was. The children all decided that they quite liked Neville and the boy too. Then it was time to head home, and the boy felt much better about moving. That feeling lasted all the way until bedtime, when his mother wished him, “Good night, Neville, pleasant dreams.”
This clever story is written with a graceful simplicity that reads aloud smoothly and easily. The story is beautifully crafted, with a a solid feel and a strong story arc. There is also a wining humor about the entire story, from the children joining in so willingly to the twist at the end. It all makes for a charming book that begs to be shared with a group of children.
Karas’ illustrations capture the emotions of the characters clearly and with humor. He also plays with fonts when the boy is calling for Neville. The word is art in the air, changing and moving. What I found most lovely was the change from the initial stark white of the new house and community where even the grass was gray. When the boy starts meeting children, color enters the picture around him and the community is revealed to be welcoming, colorful and warm.
This outstanding picture book conveys the stress of moving in both textual and visual ways, offering a great twist and a clever resolution. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.
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