The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
A toddler spends her day in Mali strapped to her mother’s back. Told from her point of view, this picture book celebrates the strong bond that occurs between mother and child as they spend their entire day together. The little one is bound to her back and they move as one. She is there as her mother beats millet with a pestle. There when her mother carries it back home in a basket balanced on her head. During the day, her mother tickles her, reaching behind to touch her little girl. They dance together, the rhythms of their day lulling the baby to sleep at times. They shelter together in the shade the big basket of mangoes makes when her mother carries it. When they return home, the little girl carries her teddy bear bound to her back. These days together are precious as the little girl will soon be too big to carry all day. But the bond they have formed together will never go away.
Emanuel lived in Mali for a year after graduating from college. While she was there, she shared stories aloud with a little girl, but found that there were no picture books that she could read her about her own country and lifestyle. So Emanuel created this one. It is a very strong debut picture book with writing that is confident and a point of view that is unique. Told from the view of the little girl on her mother’s back, one never worries that she is being neglected or ignored as the mother goes through her day. Rather one quickly realizes that she is content, cared for and completely part of her mother’s daily life.
Lewis is an extraordinary illustrator. He captures life in Mali clearly on the page, showing the mother and daughter together at home, walking through the markets, doing chores and spending time together even when the mother is busy doing other things. There is a joy in his images, a dedication to truly capture this country and its way of life on the page.
Strong, beautiful and unique, this picture book takes children on a journey to Mali where they will see life lived differently and warmly. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.