The Little One

Enchanted Lion. Nov. 2021. 72p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781592703586.
PreS-Gr 3–As is true of the best of Anthony Browne’s many mysterious books, Tanaka’s leaves out the very thing that most writers start with, and the result is this expressive, wide-eyed look at grief, presented with the help of an imaginary friend. A small Japanese girl narrates that she starts seeing a black blob of a creature, with a walleyed gaze, sitting here and there in the city scenes that are part of her walk to school. One afternoon, she begins to follow the “little one,” who takes her to a secret opening in her own home that leads to a night of play. After so much fun, the small girl sleeps, then wakes up, noting she has dreamed of her mother. Her next encounter? Her father shows up to hold her hand as they walk home together. Readers will wonder about the mother, and the dreams of the child, but it hardly matters. Something about her adventure with the little one has brought her peace. All of it unfolds in black and white ink drawings, giving the tale a timeless quality.
VERDICT Add this to collections about grief and loss; a parent has gone missing and a child’s imagination saves her, in this poetic book of love and healing.

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