See You Soon

Haymarket. Mar. 2022. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781642597639.
K-Gr 2–Six-year-old Queenie stands on the precipice of great upheaval: she, Mama, and Grandma Louise are riding the train to the county jail, where her mother will be incarcerated for two years. Her difficulty understanding why the family is being split apart causes her deep sadness. Her grandmother, now her primary caregiver, provides warm words of comfort and helps her find solace in the promise of regular communication. The scenes shift back and forth from past to present, Queenie’s sensory impressions along the grim commute interspersed with happier memories of grocery shopping, ice cream sundaes, firefly watching, braiding hair, and homework. Diaz uses shape and composition to great effect in realizing the expressive impact of the story, setting key emotional images (a tearful goodbye to Mama, a subsequent frustrated outburst, a grateful kiss for Grandma) against abstract patterns and fields of color. Each page is surrounded with a border of small objects or symbols elucidating a relevant narrative theme: question marks for Queenie’s uncertainty, barbed wire for the jail, broken hearts for the moment of separation. Unfortunately, Kaba’s written verse detracts from the book’s overall execution. Syllable count and meter vary jarringly from line to line, while several phrases awkwardly attempt to coax rhyme out of unstressed syllables that bar a smooth reading.
VERDICT A poignant, well-illustrated story on a serious subject is marred by confusing rhymes and clumsy verse, but this book will still find a place on the shelves where children of incarcerated parents can find it.

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