This picture book captures the experience of the Covid pandemic as we are all stuck in a place in between for months. It is a place where school is on the other side of the computer screen, where windows separate us from neighbors. But it is also a bright place, full of praise for the heroes who kept us going, phone calls with grandparents. It is a place of light, of sunsets, of time spent outdoors together. It is a place of loss, sadness and comfort. It is a storm that promises a rainbow tomorrow.
Told in simple poetic phrases, this picture book takes a frank look at the changes the pandemic brought us. While it could have stayed focused on the distance, instead it turns it around and shows the new ways we connected with others, with nature and with the promise of the future. This picture book sets just the right tone of respect for those who were lost, seriousness about the nature of the pandemic, and joy that it may pass and bring us somewhere beautiful.
Snider’s illustrations are done in bright colored pencil. The characters are whimsically drawn, while the urban landscape glows on the page. The book offers rainbows of color long before the literal one arrives at the end of the book.
Timely and quietly full of joy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Growing up in 1950s San Francisco isn’t simple for a Chinese-American girl who loves to dream of working on math that will send people into space. Even her best friend isn’t interested in the same things as Lily is. As Lily becomes more aware of her sexuality, she soon realizes that she is queer. She’s particularly intrigued by a male impersonator in San Francisco. As her love of math draws her closer to a white classmate at school, she realizes they may have even more in common. Soon the two teens are heading out to a club together to watch that same male impersonator that Lily was dreaming about. But remember, it is the 1950s and Chinese girls are not allowed to be gay, so Lily is risking a lot. It’s the time of McCarthyism too, so Lily’s family is threatened by the fear of Communism when her father’s papers are taken away. Lily must find a way to navigate the many dangers of being Chinese, queer and young.
Lo’s writing is so incredible. She creates a historical novel that makes the historical elements so crucial to the story that they flow effortlessly along. She avoids long sections of exposition about history by building it into the story in a natural and thoughtful way. That allows readers to feel Lily’s story all the more deeply while realizing the risks the Lily is taking with her family and friends. Lo also beautifully incorporates San Francisco into the book, allowing readers to walk Chinatown and visit other iconic parts and features of the city.
As well as telling Lily’s story, Lo shares the stories of Lily’s aunt and mother. They took different paths to the present time, making critical decisions about their careers and marriages. These experiences while straight and more historical speak to Lily’s own budding romance and finding of people who support her as she discovers who she is. They remove the simple look at who her mother could be been assumed to be and make her a more complex character.
Layered and remarkable, this book speaks to new, queer love and shows that intersectionality has been around forever. Appropriate for ages 15-18.