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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Scar, written by Charlotte Moundlic and illustrated by Olivier Tallec. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $17.00 ages 5 and up

"And I cried a little because I didn't really know how to take care of a dad who's been abandoned like this. I could tell that he'd been crying, too - he looked like a washcloth, all crumpled and wet. I don't really like seeing Dad cry."

If we look at books as the means to an end, this would be a book to share with children who have lost a loved one. Rather, I think we should read and wonder at books that bring a small piece of the world to us...perhaps it is about an experience we share, or perhaps it is about helping us begin to have empathy and understanding for what happens in the lives of others. I may have mentioned before that Carol Jago calls them 'window' and 'mirror' books.
Window books allow us to see the world beyond ourselves and our borders while mirror books allow us to see ourselves in their pages. I love thinking about the books that I read in that way!

It begins in sadness:

"Mom died this morning.
It wasn't really this morning.
Dad said she died during the night,
but I was sleeping during the night.
For me, she died this morning."

There has been gentle, realistic talk about her impending death, and the boy is aware that she has died and will not be back. He reasons that he must care for his father now. The little boy's struggle is apparent:

"I'm trying not to forget what Mom smells like,
but it's fading, so I close all the windows so that
it won't get out."

 A fall in the garden results in a scraped knee and he hears his mother's voice encouraging him as she always did when he hurt himself. He keeps taking the scab off and letting it bleed, thinking that will keep his mom's voice in his head. It might keep the sadness at bay.

When his maternal grandmother arrives he has two adults and a scab needing care. His grandmother recognizes some of the fears that threaten to engulf him and offers a ray of hope. Knowing that his mom will always have a place in his heart helps him begin healing and brings the story to a poignant and satisfying conclusion.

The artist's use of red on every page helps readers to understand the frustration and anger that the young boy and his family feel, while also bringing warmth and love to its telling. This thoughtful, moving book will always have a special spot on my 'keepers' shelf.  It is a wonder!

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