FICTION

What Is Given from the Heart

illus. by April Harrison. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375836152.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarK-Gr 3—Although he and his mama are poor, James Otis struggles to find something he can give the Temple family, who have lost everything in a fire. After his daddy dies suddenly, the boy and his mom lose their farm and move into a "run-down shotgun house." A flood further adds to their misery. Yet when Reverend Dennis announces the congregation will deliver "love boxes" to needy families for Valentine's Day, the boy and his mother decide to provide gifts for the Temples. "Stitchin' with a loving heart," mama turns her one treasure, a tablecloth, into an apron for Mrs. Temple. Considering several of his possessions unsuitable, James Otis finally decides to make a book for Sarah Temple. The delighted Temples receive their box with the congregation looking on. Their hearts filled with joy at having given to others, James Otis and mama return home to discover a love box has been delivered to them. Textured backgrounds that bleed to the edges and often include spreads form the backdrop for the folk-art illustrations rendered in mixed media and found objects. All the figures are elongated, and the brightest colors appear in a striking scene of the close-knit African American community walking to church dressed in their Sunday best. There are depictions of the modest neighborhood and touching close-ups of the boy and his mom in loving embrace and Sarah clutching her treasured book to her chest.
VERDICT This story of the joy of giving despite one's own needs is a must-have for group discussions of empathy. A treasure from a marvelous storyteller.

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