The Shared Room by Kao Kalia Yang

The Shared Room by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Xee Reiter (9781517907945)

This picture book tackles what happens when a family loses a child. Set months after the death, the family is living in dim rooms with no fire lit. Shadows fill the rooms. There is a picture on the wall of their fourth child, who died by walking into water and drowning when she couldn’t swim. Her room is empty with her items still in place. Her parents visit the room every day and regularly watch a video of the little girl singing. The oldest boy was ten and shared a room with his brother. Then one day, his mother asked if he would like to move into his sister’s room. He agreed, then the emotions hit him and for the first time he is able to cry with the loss and the fact that she was never going to return. That night, he slept in his new room. A snowstorm blew in and the family lit the fire and gathered together in its warmth.

Yang’s prose is filled with poetic moments throughout this heartfelt story. Even introducing winter in St. Paul, Minnesota is done with imagery that opens this book with gray clouds and cracked ice. Yang’s depiction of a family in mourning is done with a delicacy and little drama. The sorrow soaks the pages, the shadows fill them, these moments are dramatic and terrible enough. The emotions ache in the prose, offering a Hmong family’s response to a tragedy.

Reiter’s paintings fill the pages with silence and shadow. She uses white space beautifully, positioning the family as a huddle at times and other times embracing the full page. She plays with shadows and light, using them to show the sorrow. The image of the older brother finally weeping is heart wrenching and very effective.

A quiet book of sorrow and loss. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by University of Minnesota Press.

What About Worms? by Ryan T. Higgins

What about Worms by Ryan T. Higgins

What About Worms? by Ryan T. Higgins (9781368045735)

Part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, this easy reader is about a tiger who is big and brave. In fact, he’s not afraid of anything… except worms. Worms are slimy and wiggly and confusing. Tiger loves flowers, but wait! Flowers grow in dirt, and you know that worms live in dirt. Tiger throws the flowerpot into the air and breaks it. No worms there though. Tiger also loves apples, but wait! Worms love apples too. He throws the apple into the air, splat. No worms in the apple. Then he finds a book, that just might be all about worms. It’s too much for Tiger to take, and he runs off. Now the worms come out of the ground. They discover the dirt, the apples and a nice book. They are scared of tigers usually, but this one seems to have left them all their favorite things. Time for a worm hug to thank him!

Higgins sets just the right pace and tone in this easy reader. The page turns are well done, allowing some sentences to hang between pages, building the suspense. He creates plenty of angst and drama here with so few elements, just flowers, apples and a book. It’s a remarkable feat to have so much emotion about worms.

Higgins’ art is marvelous. With nods to Calvin and Hobbes, Pigeon that appear occasionally, and even a likeness of himself and Willems on the back of the book that should not be missed. Tiger’s emotions show not only in his facial expressions but through his entire body, emoting clearly on the page and drawing children in.

Smart, funny and fast, just what you want in an easy reader. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Hyperion Books for Children.