Over the Shop

Candlewick. Jan. 2021. 48p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536201475.
Gr 3-5–A dedication to trans activists and some characters who are nonbinary in dress and clothing make a simple message of love and acceptance resonate subtly. In this wordless book, there is comfort in familiarity, but sometimes a little change can shed new light on everything. A young girl and her grandparent live behind the family general store, where she helps the elder person with daily activities. Their contradictory personalities are depicted from the beginning; the grandparent turns away a hungry cat while, moments later, the girl brings it some food. A third of the way into the book, the grandparent puts an “apartment for rent” sign in the window. Prospective tenants tour the ramshackle apartment and are repelled by its state of disrepair. However, one special couple are willing to give the apartment—and the recalcitrant grandparent—a chance, improving more than the walls and pipes in the process. This wordless story manages to speak volumes. Detailed images fill each page, requiring careful study and observation to understand the entire story. Multiple frames appear on each page, creating a more robust narrative than is often found in picture books. The girl and her caretaker are light-skinned; the new renters are a Black person with flowing hair who wears skirts, and a lean, light-skinned person with black straight hair and wearing slacks. Readers quickly accept that they don’t really know everyone’s genders and that the story deliberately transcends such labels. Muted watercolor illustrations give way to more vibrant hues as the grandparent gets comfortable with the new residents.
VERDICT This meticulously detailed tale spreads a heartwarming message of renewal, hope, friendship, and compassion.

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