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Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing tells the moving story of a young black woman who decides to pass for white, and the story ends with the woman falling or being pushed out of a window to her death. Heidi Durrow has said that Larsen, who, like Durrow, is half black and half Danish, is one of her literary heroes, and the mother of the main character in Durrow’s 2011 bestseller The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is named Nella. Durrow’s Nella has a daughter, Rachel, who is half Danish and half black, and it is this girl, Rachel, whose story is related in The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. Hers is a story that offers homage to Nella Larsen’s work, as well as bears witness to an actual story that Durrow read about, a recent true story of a mother who fell, or jumped, from the top of a building while holding her children; only a daughter survived. (more…)
Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom written by Lisa Tucker McElroy and Illustrated by Diane Paterson, tells a story written entirely in epistolary form in which nine-year-old Lizzy writes letters to her mother, who is deployed and fighting in a war overseas. In Love, Lizzy, Lizzy asks hard-hitting questions about patriotism and “how long does defending freedom take?” The reader follows Lizzy’s letters from June to May of the following year as Lizzy deals with missing her mother for holidays, her birthday, and school activities like Lizzy’s soccer tournament. Each letter feels personal to Lizzy’s character, but also resonates with the universal difficulties that any child missing a military parent would endure: the normalcy of their previous parent-child relationship changed into more complex feelings of uncertainty and anxiety over their parent’s safety.
Lizzy’s letters feel more intimate due to Paterson’s illustrations featuring pictures of Lizzy engaged in the activities of her daily life about which she is writing. There are also photos and doodles from Lizzy to her mother included in the letters that make Lizzy’s character more dynamic. The most interesting of these doodles are the maps that Lizzy draws, which start out small, showing the private space of her bedroom, and eventually grow broader and more global—until they feature the town, the United States, and a map of the entire globe. These illustrations make Lizzy’s story feel all the more personal by adding complexity to her character.
Love, Lizzy can be an important resource for any parent who is missing a loved one due to their military service. Not only is the story relevant to many American children, but the book also contains practical advice for military families whose children are dealing with the separation of a deployed parent.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended Ages 6-11
Reviewer: Erin Koehler
Perfect Lil Blends: A Reality Book that Celebrates the Diversity of Multicultural Children is like a series of love letters from parents to their children accompanied by their children’s portraits. Compiled by Luke Whitehead, the founder of Mixed Nation, this is a photo essay of children of mixed heritage from almost every racial, cultural, and ethnic background. Yes, most of these children are exceptionally beautiful however, similar to, but more personal than, Kip Fulbeck’s photo essay book Mixed, each photo of a child is accompanied by a description of the child’s life interests and a note of dedication from the parents to the child, making this more than a vanity book of portraits. (more…)