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Monday, June 12, 2017

Hand Over Hand, written by Alma Fullerton and illustrated by Renne Benoit. Second Story Press. 2017. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"But there are no
tugs on Nina's line.

As the sun climbs,
sending ripples of golden light
along the sea,
Lolo's buckets begin to fill.

In the Philippine fishing village where Nina and her grandfather Lolo live, a girl has no place in a fishing boat on the sea. Nina is not ready to accept that. Somehow she convinces her grandfather that she can handle being there. Lolo has some conditions: Nina must bait her own hook, and bring in any fish she catches. She makes the promise, and off they go - much to the chagrin of other fishermen from their village.

As the day passes and Lolo catches many fish, Nina has no such luck. Her grandfather is patient and encouraging. She is discouraged. Just as she is ready to accept defeat her line is tugged by a large fish. True to her word, and with her grandfather's guidance and advice, she works hard to bring the fish aboard. Arriving back at the village, the other fishermen are surprised, to say the least. They are told she landed it just as her grandfather taught her - hand over hand. Impressive!

Alma Fullerton's storytelling presents a cultural story that is timeless. Her sharp description and repetitive phrasing, lively dialogue, and rhythmic words make the reader feel as if they are out on the sea with the two for a day's fishing. It is a gentle and empowering telling.

Renne Benoit takes us to sea in her stunning, and detailed, watercolor images. We ride along with granddaughter and grandfather as they pole across the bay, sit quietly awaiting bites on their lines, and then we are made aware of the long fight it takes for Nina to land her catch. The sun is setting when the fight is done, and the two are ready to pole back over sun-dappled waters to their village. It is just lovely!                                                                               

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