Aunt Pearl

Groundwood. Aug. 2019. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773061535.
K-Gr 2–A family tries to provide a home for their relative who struggles with homelessness. Dan and Marta have never met their Aunt Pearl but they know that she doesn’t have a home. One spring their mother decides to invite their Aunt Pearl to come live with them. Though the family tries to make room for her in their home and their lives, it’s a struggle to accommodate her, as she accumulates odds and ends, leaves messes, and behaves in a manner they consider “strange.” One morning in the fall Aunt Pearl leaves suddenly and the children are left wondering where she went. The topic of homelessness is carelessly handled in this story. Aunt Pearl and her actions are described as a “mystery,” “wacky,” and “a problem.” The depiction of her mental health is poorly handled; one night the family wakes up and sees Aunt Pearl outside, “pacing and talking to herself,” but it is not addressed beyond this one page. The white-presenting family lives in a suburban community and the addition of group of diverse children on a single page seems like an afterthought. The detailed collage illustrations add color and texture to the story and are skillfully employed to show the discrepancy between Aunt Pearl’s disorganized, clutter-filled space and the rest of the home.
VERDICT This story’s lack of context and the absence of any additional information for parents and caregivers results in a confusing and lackluster attempt to introduce children to homelessness. Readers would be better served by other books that address homelessness such as Michael Genhart’s I See You

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