Three diverse children adapt Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 from love poem to celebration of friendship.
A pale girl with black hair in pigtails, a light-brown–skinned boy with brown hair and glasses, and a dark-brown–skinned girl with afro puffs atop her head are clearly the best of friends, often holding hands or otherwise touching in the mixed-media–and-digital illustrations. Adams has kept what concepts children can understand of Browning’s language, replacing the rest with references to the seasons and kid-friendly language. Instead of “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight,” Adams offers, “I love thee deep / and wide and high. // I love thee in soft sunlight / and rain-drizzled night.” The former spread shows the trio in a submarine and on a ship at sea. Instead of Browning’s passionate declamations, readers hear, “I love thee by stars / and firelight. // By spring’s first snowdrops // and fall’s red trees // and winter’s frost-etched breath.” The illustrations mix the real and the fantastical: One of the last spreads (“…and at end of day’s goodnight kiss”) portrays the three children suspended from kites, two of them being welcomed by a parent’s arms, the third still drifting toward home. Neal’s friendly, matte artwork is softly colored in earth tones. The final page tells a little about Browning and gives the original text of Sonnet 43.
A beautiful ode to friendship that brings Browning’s rhythms to kids’ level. (Picture book. 4-8)