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Friday, April 15, 2016

Little Elliott, Big Family. Written and illustrated by Mike Curato. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 3 and up

"Grandmothers sang to babies
while uncles gave advice.

Cousins skated together.
Some even did tricks!

Elliott wondered what it
would be like to have 147
cousins. Or even just one."

Once again, Mike Curato creates an appealing setting that is filled with images of old New York. He focuses our attention right from the start on family, and the preparations taking place for the many mice who are sure to be in attendance at Mouse's family reunion. The details on the title page that show the seating, the mice hoisting a banner of welcome, and the orchestrated work of many to be ready will garner attention and get young readers thinking about the upcoming event.

Mouse is bursting with excitement and longing to see his many relatives. His family photo reflects the abundance of kin who will be sharing his grandmother's cheese chowder. He waves goodbye, leaving Elliott to himself in a house that is far too lonely. A walk is needed. That walk intensifies Elliott's longing for family, as he watches others take part in family outings and shared experiences everywhere he looks. There is so much that families do together. Elliott cannot imagine the joy that Mouse must be feeling right now.

The longing is palpable on every spread as Elliott walks alone on sidewalks and in the park, sits alone on the subway and in a restaurant, then stands alone at the ice rink and on the pier as he stares at the vast expanse of ocean. We are so aware of the abject loneliness he is experiencing. Poor Elliott! Even an escape to the theatre is wrought with emotion as Elliott watches a family film in an empty movie house. To make it worse, it snows while he is inside and he walks out into snow and wind, only intensifying the his feelings of woe.

The warmth of Mouse's friendship dulls the ache, and returns light to Elliott's world. They have missed each other, and wrap themselves in a shared hug. Mouse has an idea that is sure to end the isolation that Elliott has been feeling. He is so right!

Absolutely heartwarming ... it is lovely to get to know Elliott better! I will look forward to meeting him in a future story, if there is to be one.

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