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Saturday, October 15, 2016

ARE WE THERE YET? Written and illustrated by Dan Santat. Little Brown and Company, Hachette. 2016. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"You might find yourself
saying things like,

Are we there yet?
This is taking forever.

Staring out your window
at a thousand miles of
road can get boring
pretty quickly."

Our mom grew up in Saskatchewan, moved to Manitoba to take her nursing training, and settled here when she met Dad in 1947. The rest of her family remained in Saskatchewan, in fairly close proximity to one another. That meant trips for us to visit our relatives two to three times a year - at the time, they seemed so long. We sang songs, played word games, memorized the names of every town from Brandon to Balcarres, and, while we don't remember, likely drove our parents cuckoo with constant inquiries about the number of miles left to travel. It was fun to anticipate the arrival, but it was BORING being in the car for so long.

An invitation to Grandma's birthday party is the impetus for this trip taken. Two disgruntled parents dealing with their son's rising boredom is not much fun for them. As boredom increases and the moaning and groaning becomes endless, their world is literally turned upside down. The parents are aware of their trip into the past, while the son just keeps complaining, oblivious to the action outside the car windows. As they near Grandma's house they move quickly into the future, letting go of all things past.

The son is reassured that they will soon arrive, and he slips into a quiet restful nap. He is awakened upon arrival. The party guests are all Grandma's age, bent on cheek pinching and head patting. This begs the boy's next piteous question: "Can we go now?"

Mr. Santat's humorous mixed media artwork combines comic panels with double page spreads to keep readers engaged and entertained. The sights outside the window are magical, even though the youngest member of the family has no idea, too busy with his boredom complaints. Having the action move backward, and then quickly forward is genius. The details? I will leave you to discover them for yourselves, with close observation and repeated readings. Grandma's gift is a gentle reminder that it's best to be in the present and to value what we have.

The artist dedicates his new book to his son Kyle:

"Be patient. We have all the time in the world."

What an adventure, and quite the reminder to each one of us!

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