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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Father's Arms Are a Boat, written by Stein Erik Lunde and illustrated by Oyvind Torseter. Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2012. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"My window is pitch black.
I have socks on,
and a woolly sweater under my
I can't sleep.
It's quieter now than it's ever been.

I go back to the living room.
My dad looks at me,
and I climb onto his lap."

Much has changed in the house in the woods that is home to a father and his son. The evening begins with the two watching the fire. The boy then leaves the warmth of his father's presence to go to bed. He is lonely, and returns to his father, crawling onto his lap. They find solace in each other's company.

They talk about their plans for the following day...the chopping down of a big spruce tree. When the boy shows concern for the red birds outside who might find shelter in the tree, and the fact that the fox might get to the food the pair left for them before the birds do, the father is reassuring.

""What if the fox eats the birds' breakfast?"
"Then we can put out more bread."
"What if the birds wake up before us and
there's no food?"
"Everything will be all right," Daddy says.
"The fox doesn't like bread."

It is only as the conversation continues that we realize the reassurance is needed to help the young boy deal with the loss of his mother. Dressing for the cold, the two go out to look at the stars. The father holds his son and sings a gentle song as they walk into the yard, look at the stars and moon, and make secret wishes on a shooting star. Returning to the warmth of home, the two snuggle up together and wait for sleep to come:

"We watch the fire for a long time.
I still can't fall asleep.
"Everything will be all right," says Daddy.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure."

For the moment, it is all the boy needs.

Beautifully crafted in words and art, this is a book that you will not soon forget. Yes, it is about sorrow. It is also about endless love and hope for times to come. The illustrations are done is folded paper and collage, giving them a quality that evokes the desolation. Done in black, white and grey, with light touches of color, they add an ethereal beauty to the words.

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