April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Away by Emil Sher | SLJ Review

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redstarSHER, Emil. Away. illus. by Qin Leng. 32p. Groundwood. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984831.

PB-Sher-AwayPreS-Gr 2 –Skip is heading to summer camp soon, but despite her mom’s reassurance, she’s certain that she’ll have a terrible time. However, a visit from Mimsy, Skip’s maternal grandmother, soon begins to convince the girl that camp might be fun. Unusually—and effectively—the story is told entirely through notes that the mother and daughter leave for each other. Both Skip’s and Mom’s voices are conveyed adroitly; Mom is patient yet firm (“You won’t be gone forever. Just two weeks.”), while Skip is relatably insecure and nervous (“I’m not packing. NOT EVER!”). The loose, sketchy illustrations, beautifully rendered in watercolor and ink, rely on an earthy, muted palette to bring soothingly domestic scenes to life. Details such as Lester, Skip’s cat, who can be found on most spreads, and a reminder on the calendar to replace a hearing aid battery add to the homey, familiar feeling. The result is an authentic portrait of a loving, diverse family (Skip is brown-skinned, while her mother and grandmother are white). Skip’s and her mother’s lives are packed with activity, but they are never too busy to support each other. VERDICT With intricate images to pore over, this enchanting and original title is ideal for one-on-one sharing and the perfect antidote for children dreading their first overnight trip. Superb.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.