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OVER THE SHOP by JonArno Lawson Kirkus Star


by JonArno Lawson ; illustrated by Qin Leng

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0147-5
Publisher: Candlewick

In this wordless tale, a chosen family forms.

As a child washes breakfast dishes, their harried grandparent exits the kitchen directly into a general store, revealing that they live in rooms behind their shop. Upstairs, a rental apartment sits empty, rejected by prospective tenants, until a new couple looks past its grubby, run-down state. With elbow grease and enthusiasm, they fix peeling wallpaper, cracking plaster, and cabinets hanging off hinges. They also give the shop’s exterior a new coat of paint and share in running it, easing the grandparent’s workload and spirits. A new family of four is born. Leng uses unbordered panels, sometimes full-page, sometimes small and square, sometimes horizontal. Her ink-and-watercolor paintings are gentle and dreamy, with a real beating heart. Child and grandparent are White; the new family members are an interracial couple, one brown-skinned (long hair, billowy skirt), one Asian-presenting (short hair, jeans). A few carefully placed pride rainbows make queerness explicit: a barely noticeable rainbow belt; a rainbow hat, tiny in a distance shot; and, finally, an unmistakable (and unprecedented for this shop) rainbow flag hanging outside the business at the very end. Careful readers may deduce that the Asian tenant is a transgender man, signaled through an extremely subtle plot point. Poverty and the child’s early loneliness are subtle too, but warmth never is.

A wordless, singing infusion of love and energy into a home.

(Picture book. 4-8)