So just bowl me over and break my heart. This narrative comes from celebrated author Charlotte Zolotow who recently passed away. Books like this of hers make us thankful for the stories she gave us before moving to the next life, while we feel the void left in the future children’s literary canon. With the direct, “I wish I had a father,” Zolotow opens up this first person narrative with the painful yearning of her protagonist’s existence. In the conversation with his mother that follows, we see how a child missing a parent imagines a full and complex icon of love for himself and his mother. His pining for a father has moved him to think of every aspect of how a father would treat him and communicate with him, including the way that father would smooth things over with mom and speak in a low voice when angry. An insightful rendering of the depth and breadth of a child’s understanding of the nuances of human relationships, the book gives all single parents a role model in the mother who is just as powerfully evocative. In her one line, she responds with sensitivity to her son’s description of a father, embracing that that type of father sounds wonderful and offers the empowering suggestion that if that father never comes, the protagonist can be that type of father himself one day. Blow me away—this picture book has delivered the best response to a child wanting an absent parent that I’ve heard in a long time. LeUyen Pham’s illustrations pull us in and hold us close to the family of this child’s imagination and secure our emotional connection with mother and son at the end. The narrative is very intimate and feels targeted to the community it specifically represents.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; ages 6+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda