Elem. – Out to Sea

Kellock, Helen. Out to Sea. Thames & Hudson, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-500-65236-7. Grades 1-3.  $17.95.

Kellock has created a beautiful story about grief and loss. Lara’s grandmother has died and she misses her terribly. The young girl thinks about how her grandmother “smelled like strawberries” and how the pair would spend time on the beach. At night, Lara is filled with sadness and begins to cry, as thoughts swirl around in her head, keeping her from sleep. The author ingeniously uses the sea as a metaphor for Lara’s grief for the rest of the story. Tears fill the child’s bedroom and carry her out to sea in a boat. She leaves behind all the things that used to give her joy and continues to drift on the water, forgetting “everything that made her feel happy or safe,” like the smell of strawberries or her grandmother’s warm hands. All she feels is the “cold swirling sea.” Then, in the deep ocean appears a glowing pearl, which gives her comfort. The young girl realizes that there are things in her life that still make her happy, like the memories of her Nana, and she rows the boat home. Through the imagery of the sea, the author has crafted a story that clearly portrays the sentiments of loss, such as feeling “out to sea,” drifting aimlessly and being down in the depths. The progression of Lara’s emotions is creatively shown in the author’s full bleed illustrations. At first, she floats down a narrow stream along her street, but then the boat continues on past the big city, arrives on the beach and heads into the wide open ocean. Initially, the boat moves under its own power, but Lara picks up the oars to steer it home after she finds the pearl. At the end, the author observes that even with the pearl, Lara still has “other sleepless nights and sad goodbyes,” but now understands that she is not alone.

THOUGHTS: This book is a wonderful and fitting story for children experiencing loss.  It is a good one to share with your guidance counselor and is a must-have for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Memory Jars

Brosgol, Vera. Memory Jars. Roaring Book Press, 2021. 978-1-250-31487-1 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Freda is disappointed when she cannot eat all the blueberries that she picked with her grandmother. Blueberry season is over, and she has to wait an entire year to eat them again! Gran reminds her that she saves blueberries in a jar by turning them into delicious jam. What a delightful idea! Freda begins to wonder- if she can preserve blueberries in jars, why not everything else in her life that are her favorite things? Things such as warm cookies, poppies (her favorite flower), her neighbor’s beautiful singing voice, her best friend that is moving away, or the full moon. Only after she bottles everything up in mason jars does Freda realize that saving everything also means she cannot enjoy those very same things. Memory Jars, a picture book written and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol, is the perfect story to remind readers that some things are best saved as beautiful memories.

THOUGHTS: Memory Jars is written as a fable, complete with a satisfying lesson and delicious blueberry jam recipe at the end. The story is clever and charming as Freda learns that enjoying the moment is the best way to make memories. This book would be a perfect way to walk down memory lane to remember fun memories from a summer break, remember a loved one, or remember memories from a fun school year.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Everything Naomi Loved

Yamasaki, Katie, and Ian Lendler. Everything Naomi Loved. Norton Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-324-00491-2. Unpaged. $18.95. Grades K-2.

Naomi loves 11th Street, the place where she calls home. It has everything she and her family needs, including Mister Ray’s Automotive, pizza by the slice, a laundromat, her best friend (Ada), and more. One by one, however, 11th Street begins to change. They build a fancy building where her favorite tree once stood, and Ada moves away when they tear her family’s building down. Mister Ray explains to Naomi that things change, but they can keep the things they love with them by painting them into a mural. Mister Ray paints a beautiful tree, and he helps Naomi paint Ada underneath it. Eventually, Naomi’s family also moves out of their 11th Street home, but thanks to Mister Ray, she is able to take her memories with her. This is a beautifully written story about carrying memories we hold dear with us throughout the changing seasons of life.

THOUGHTS: This would be an excellent book to hand to a young reader whose family plans to move away in the near future. Perhaps readers, after finishing the story, could paint a portrait of all the things they hold dear, which they could take with them wherever they go. The book would pair well with other titles set in the city, such as Sydney Smith’s Small in the City (2019) or Marcie Colleen’s The Bear’s Garden (2020). Together, these titles would provide a comprehensive portrait of life in a constantly moving, ever changing city. Overall, this is a touching story with an important message about embracing positive memories when things change.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member