Elliot was a little boy whose parents loved him very much. But there was a problem, when Elliot cried his parents did not understand why and when he yelled they did not know what to do. So one day a social worked named Thomas came and Elliot was taken to a new family with a new mother and father. It was different there and Elliot’s new family understood when he was hungry, when he was upset and when he needed attention. Elliot still got to see his parents sometimes too and they had a lot of fun together. His parents did try to care for him once again, but they still did not understand what he needed so he got moved to another family who could respond to his needs. Finally, Elliot came to a family where they wanted him to stay forever. They understood his needs even more deeply than any other family had and said things like “I love you forever, forever.”
This book is so very important. It is a book about the foster care system and one that is so intensely honest that it can be hard to read at times. Pearson manages to not make Elliot’s parents bad at all, keeping their neglect of Elliot vague enough to fit the experiences of many children. That also keeps the book appropriate for the youngest listeners. At the same time, Pearson shows the way children are moved from home to home, the way that they can go back to their parents, and the ability to finally find a permanent home where they are loved and cared for. The moment where parents finally use the word “love” with Elliot is so powerful because readers until that moment will not have realized that he had not been told it before. It’s a moment of realization that stings the heart.
Gauthier’s illustrations are done in cut paper collage. The colors are muted and quiet, creams and tans with lines on them. The background colors change slightly with the various families that Elliot lives with, but they are always muted. I appreciated this subtlety in the colors that supports the quiet and undramatic feel of the entire book.
Honest and vital, this picture book fills a huge gap in children’s books with its depiction of the foster system for small children. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Pajama Press and Myrick Marketing & Media.