The Call of the Swamp

illus. by Marco Somà. 26p. Eerdmans. Sept. 2017. Tr $16. ISBN 9780802854865.
PreS-Gr 2—Readers will never encounter a more likable and endearing creature than this swamp baby. Neither had Boris's parents, who struggled with infertility and happened upon him during a remote drive. "When the couple found a newborn at the edge of the swamp, it seemed like a gift from heaven, and they paid no attention to the fact that he had gills like a fish." Boris's sinuous sea-fanlike hair and his mangrove in a jar don't hinder him from making friends, attending school, and doing other kid things. But the mangrove begins losing leaves and the scent of the swamp lures Boris. He begins asking questions like, "Why did you take me home, Mom?" and "Why didn't you leave me where I was?" A return to the swamp is predictable in a way that will make young children feel safe, but adventuresome at the same time. Boris eventually comes to the profound realization, "Maybe our family is simply the ones we love? And the ones who love us back?" Translated from Italian, Watkinson's work feels smooth and natural without any bumps or glitches. Somà brings rich golden and deep teal hues to to the gray-browns of the swamp. Muted earth tones feel magical rather than muddy. Parents will hold back the tears as mom and dad give Boris the space to discover his identity and little ones will relate to stretching one's wings and learning to make choices.
VERDICT At home on the shelf with Suzanna Lopez's The Best Family in the World, Cali's tender text is an even more honest look at the real emotions of adoptees. Best shared one-on-one.

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