Will We Always Hold Hands?

Random House Studio. Nov. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593564509.
Gr 2-4–In this tenderly written book, a wise panda bear and a trusting rat converse about their deep relationship as they journey together to a place unknown. With a simple dialogue framework as Bear responds to Rat’s uncertainties, the story reveals the infinite value in the support loved ones offer. Though heartfelt and innocently posed, the questions Rat ask and the answers Bear provide are voiced as if by mature individuals, ones who can shape their feelings about the binding ties of compassion and love into poetic candor and reassurance. With Rat asking if Bear will stay even when the unexpected happens, with words intimating life events from aging to moving to sickness to dying, the quality of the questions are enough to give any reader pause. While the hearts of the characters are clear, Rat’s questions carry a hint of an adult’s pessimism that may mystify a child’s perspective on what the story is saying about friendship. However, Bear’s answers ring with sincerity and convey how connection and memories can be treasured beyond compare and will remain unbroken. Wide open spaces of blue, white, and brown surround the delicate, tilting, umbrella-toting figures of the two friends, spun with fine ink lines against the blooms of watercolor. The large, roly-poly bear and small rat are always holding hands.
VERDICT The depth of love and friendship expressed by Rat and Bear is poignant in this beautifully illustrated book, though their conversation about hardships in life may prove difficult for young readers to process without an adult to provide relative perspective.

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