The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden by Heather Smith, illustrated by Rachel Wada (9781459821033)
Makio loved spending time with his neighbor, Mr. Hirota in his garden that looked down upon the harbor. He could see his father at work along the shore. Then one day, the tsunami came. It took away Makio’s father and Mr. Hirota’s daughter. Everyone in the village lost someone that day. Silence descended upon the town along with their grief. A noise came that was Mr. Hirota building a phone book in his garden. A phone booth with an old-fashioned phone and no wires connecting it anywhere. Painted white, the booth gave the mourners an opportunity to reconnect with their lost family members, sharing their days from a phone booth on the hill overlooking the harbor.
This picture book is based on a true story of a Japanese man who built a phone booth in his garden to speak with his dead brother, which was then used by thousands of mourners in Osaka to speak to their dead relatives after the tsunami. The tale here is told with a deep grace and empathy that shines on every page. The dramatic impact of the wave both on the land and on the people who live there is shown clearly. The grief afterwards is palpable on the page too.
The illustrations were inspired by Japanese traditional techniques using watercolors, black ink and pencils as well as digital assembly. The resulting images are filled with a powerful mix of light and dark with the black ink giving a dramatic and strong impact.
A beautiful and aching story of loss and community. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (9781492638322)
A small child does not want to go to bed in this poetic look at bedtime struggles. The book begins with the word “no” being chanted like a drum beat. The child asks “who” like an owl as if there is someone else heading to bed. Their mother takes the teddy bear and heads off towards the bedroom. Once in bed, there is growling like a bear, hissing like a snake due to monsters, and even roaring like a lion to check beneath the bed. Fawns and squirrels appear as a storybook is shared. The child hugs like a koala for a final kiss. Then there is water to drink and the bathroom to use before the child may or may not head to their own bed and sleep.
Grimes takes the battles of bedtime and turns them into a menagerie of animals who fill the pages with the reactions. The process of bedtime negotiations is rather like lions and snakes for parents at times. I appreciate that the process is imperfect and at times filled with the child’s strong emotions. As always, Grimes’ writing is marvelous. Her words are energetic and the combination of behavior and animals is clever.
The art by Zunon is done in vibrant mix of collage and painting. The character’s faces are detailed and expressive, while the various animals are done in a colorful and stylized format. The child could be any gender, which makes this book all the more inclusive in addition to having an African-American family of characters.
A poetic and animal-filled bedtime story about bedtime. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.