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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lucy, by Randy Cecil. Candlewick, Random House. 2016. $24.99 ages 6 and up

"Suddenly he was petrified. He felt dizzy, and his hands went numb. The Paris globe fell to the stage floor with a crack. And then London, Istanbul, and Cairo, one at a time, shattered all around him. The audience fell silent as a large hook reached out and pulled Sam from the stage. As he left the theater, he turned to see Umberto the Boneless Wonder ..."

What an amazing story illustrated books can tell! Too often we push kids to move beyond them into chapter books, somehow feeling that it the next important step to really being a reader. Too often older kids miss the real pleasure of the art and voice found in illustrated books. Please don't fall into the trap of feeling they are EASY, a designation once given to all books where art and text had equal billing.

This new book by Randy Cecil proves my point exactly! It is the story of a young girl and her father. Eleanor Wische is lonely and left to her own devices while her father works. Her father, Sam, is an aspiring juggler, always practicing his craft and wanting to perform for an audience. Lucy is a little dog, fed by Eleanor in the mornings and wandering the streets for the rest of the day in a bid to procure food to sustain herself. Loneliness is evident in each of them, and all want a place to belong. That is the end of Act I.

In succeeding acts and chapters within, we watch as they do their best to make good things happen. It is a long story, told in spare, often repetitive, text and accompanied by detailed oil illustrations. There is so much to see, to enjoy and to admire about the characters, their days and their dreams. It resembles a silent movie, with its shades of gray illustrations and its heartwarming scenes. There are surprises here, but you must be diligent in poring over each page if you want to discover them.

The pace of the telling allows readers the time they need to fully appreciate its every nuance. It is a story about family, isolation, longing, Vaudeville, confidence, connection and finding home. It is humorous and hopeful. It is unlike any other book you will read this year.

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