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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Away, written by Emil Sher and illustrated by Qin Leng. Groundwood, 2017. $18.95 ages 5 and up .

"You won't be
gone forever.

Just two weeks.

I told Eli
I only need to borrow
his sleeping bag for
ONE night."

I am totally sympathetic to Skip's reluctance to leave home on her own - and for the first time ever! I felt the same way - and I was a teenager.

It's time for Skip's first ever camping experience. Her mom is encouraging. Skip is unconvinced. Readers experience their conflict through a series of sticky notes. The two battle back and forth, reasoning on the mom's part negated by all that Skip needs to stay home and do concerning her friends, and her cat. As the time for departure looms ever closer, Skip shares observations from her grandmother (Mimsy) about Mom's first sleepover camp. Grandmother and mother have varying memories of the past.

"Mimsy showed
me a picture
of you.
A 9 years old you.

A crying you.
Holding a suitcase.
And a fuzzy walrus.

I remember that
My tears didn't
last. My memories
are as warm
as biscuits."

What a joy it is to read a book that is so inventive! The relationship between mother and daughter is charming, and telling. The notes provide just enough text to make for a relatable story of reassurance and recalcitrance. Life is busy for the two, and they are in it together. Every parent and child can recognize the pull and push that will hopefully lead to a mutually happy ending.

The book's pages are filled with gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations that bring this patient mother and obstinate child to glorious life for little ones who share their story - and for their readers. The details bring focus to every exchange between mother and daughter. The mood is comforting, while also being realistic. Visual perspectives change often. We are fully aware of Skip's growing concern as she eyes the calendar and the target date for camp to begin. Often chaotic, always personal and pleasing, this is a picture book that offers readers a chance to stop, look and ensure that every one of its lovely details are savored.

On a personal note, I think you are going to love Lester!  Oh, and Skip's notes from camp.

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