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Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Two Blankets, written by Irena Kobald and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2014. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Nobody spoke like I did.
When I went out, it was
like standing under a
waterfall of strange sounds.
The waterfall was cold.
It made me feel alone.

I felt like I wasn't me

Fleeing a war-torn land to find safety in another is a story taken from recent news reports, isn't it? It is hard for any of us to imagine, unless we have lived in such circumstances. Luckily, there are places that offer refuge for those who are threatened by a war not of their own making.

Such a move can, at best, be unsettling. Everything is new, and strange. 'Cartwheel', as her auntie called her when she was happy and carefree before the war, leaves everything that is strange outside when she gets home.

"When I was home,
I wrapped myself in a blanket
of my own words and sounds.
I called it my old blanket."

Then, on a park outing, a girl smiles at her. She is reticent to return the smile, and walks on. It is a while until they see her again. When they do, she speaks ... words that Cartwheel does not understand. But, actions speak louder than words. The girl keeps smiling, and takes Cartwheel to the swings. What fun! Cartwheel does not know how to express her happiness.

The young girl is a born teacher, and brings new words to her recent acquaintance every time they meet. The lessons are not easy; but, Cartwheel begins to weave a new blanket of words. Soon, she has two blankets to make her warm and comfortable.

Freya Blackwood's color palette is extraordinary. Cartwheel's world is orange, gold and brown; her new friend's is blue, yellow, pink and green. The two blankets match. The second blanket expands with each new meeting and grows in beauty, with Cartwheel's shoes providing an anchor in both worlds. The final image is full of the joy to be found when acceptance and friendship is offered so selflessly.


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