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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Home At Last, by Vera B. Willams and Chris Raschka. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2016. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"To Lester, the middle-of-the-night quiet was the quiet of a strange house. It had a persistent whisper in it, and he was sure that whisper would eventually get Daddy Rich to mutter, " What's up, little guy?" or get Albert to swing his long legs and big feet off the bed and into his great big slippers and to stand up and put his arms ... "

For those who have admired Vera Williams' wise and marvelous books, this is posted with the sadness that comes in knowing it is her last. Published posthumously and illustrated by the incomparable Chris Raschka, it is a worthy story to share.

It is a story of adoption. Lester is a young boy living in a group home as he waits for the completed paperwork before he can be adopted by Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert, and finally go home with them.

"It always takes a long time to adopt someone. Lester had visited Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich a lot. He had a picture by his bed of the three of them, plus Wincka. In the picture they already look like a family."

Changing the family dynamic and learning to live with a new reality for all is a learning curve, and not always easy. Having made many moves, Lester is not ready to have his little blue suitcase stored in the attic. It is a haven for his most prized toys, where they are protected and safe from harm.

"So every evening, after Rich or Albert read his a story and tucked him in and Wincka eased off the foot of the bed to follow them out of the room, Lester talked to his action figures. Afterward, he carefully arranged them in the suitcase and zippered them in."

It isn't long before he and his suitcase make their way to his parents' room, waiting patiently at its side in hopes of being noticed. Concerned for his health and worried about his nightly visits, they do not understand his urgent need to be scooped up and placed between them, with Wincka at his feet and his suitcase nearby, in an attempt to feel safe. Lester cannot explain his stomach churning worry.

"They explained that all of them in bed together was special for Sunday mornings. Mornings when they could sleep late and no one had to go to work or school. And perhaps they could even eat pancakes in bed."

It is a difficult and somewhat lengthy transition. There are so many surprising, lovely moments. Lester eventually shares his fears, the parents face their own worries, and Wincka puts it all in perspective.

"Two not-so-smart dads. One brilliant dog," said Albert. "Maybe Wincka should have adopted Lester instead of us."

 Chris Raschka's watercolors bring life to a house that is full of energy and warmth. He creates a 'home' for all. He finished the book following Ms. Williams' death, focusing on talks they had together and the sketches she had made for this beautiful final work.

The notes that follow are informative and important.

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