Things That Go Away

Abrams. Mar. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419744822.
PreS-Gr 3–Impermanence is the subject of this French import, and although its theme will resonate with adults, three elements ground it firmly in the realm of children’s literature. First, children are genuinely curious or worried about the types of things undergoing transformation: the body falling asleep and waking, hair and teeth loss, wounded skin. Next, the book is designed with a transparent page inserted into each double spread; on it, black strokes outline hair, bubbles, steam, etc. In turning this page, the reader moves the objects, participating in the metamorphosis, as, for example, when a girl’s closed eyelids lift to reveal her open eyes before they descend on her stuffed animal—or when a woman’s disappearing tresses turn into a man’s mustache. In these clever changes, there is humor or poignancy and acknowledgment of the span of life experiences. Bad weather “goes away,” as does fear, depicted as a wolf hovering over a child in bed. Finally, the oil paintings are brimming with color and personality. Paired with minimal text, they invite conversations that go beyond the surface: The image accompanying “Dark thoughts fade…” shows a man sculpting, and as a mass of black shapes moves from his head to complete another sculpture on the verso, one can contemplate the role of art in supporting mental health. In an utterly reassuring conclusion featuring an embrace, readers learn that “ thing never goes away, and never will.”
VERDICT This wise, creative book will be returned to with anticipation and shared frequently.

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