Good Things

Razorbill. Aug. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593403648.
Gr 1-4–Pops always had a saying for everything, and Malcolm learns how true “good things take time” is when he has to care for Pop’s houseplants after he dies. If houseplants were more of a standard picture book subject, the opening dialogue about them wouldn’t feel so disorienting, but as it stands words and phrases such as “variegated” and “fenestrations” are not only unfamiliar, but don’t have clear pictures to convey their meaning to picture book readers. Then, just as children begin to grasp that the book is about a houseplant-loving dad, it becomes a story of grief. The sense of belonging and community is strong in Harris’s illustrations of this Black family and neighborhood, but the suddenness of Pops being “gone” (a picture of Malcolm in a suit and a hearse seen through the window is the clue he has died) without any explanation may leave readers confused and distracted. As much as books about death and grief are needed, this text underlines rather than undermines our cultural taboos against speaking of the topic forthrightly. Back matter includes a fun (and much needed) glossary that explains all of the plant words, but the joking tone is at odds with the rest of the book.
VERDICT Poignant and helpful to specific readers and situations, this book is not generally recommended.

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