Forever and Always

Greenwillow. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063140783.
K-Gr 3–At first Thurman’s book is ordinary. Even in the blocky, loving scenes created by Knight-Justice, readers see a "normal" family. The father leaves in the morning, and returns at night or works late, very late. Then there is a glimpse of his patch—he is an Emergency Medical Technician. And this is a Black family. The mother’s anxiety, and that of the small Olivia, worrying along with her, conveys to readers the gut-punch of their lives. An author’s note spells it out. George Floyd was a father. Trayvon Martin was a son. The family here prays and waits while trying to think well of the world, that all will be okay, when actually they have evidence that sometimes fathers leave and never return. The text has the somber, dulled pulse of a heartbeat, trained to stay steady. But readers are witnessing a war. This is a soldier who may not make it back from the front, just because of the color of his skin. It’s hard to express how effective Thurman’s restraint is. Feelings, worried looks, and palpable tension in the beautiful painterly illustrations are the only clues of the pain this family feels during every moment of separation until Daddy returns home, safe. This is a picture book that gives oxygen to all the unstated fears, perhaps burning them off. For children who have never experienced this fear, these small domestic scenes deliver a mighty big lesson in empathy.
VERDICT So understated that it’s sure to give flight to discussions, this book offers a reality right out of the headlines, but by leaving it child-sized has a huge impact. A necessary title.

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