Kirkus Reviews QR Code
UNCLE HOLLAND by JonArno Lawson


by JonArno Lawson ; illustrated by Natalie Nelson

Pub Date: April 11th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-55498-929-4
Publisher: Groundwood

A serial thief faces his choice of consequence.

Holland has a mother, a father, and two younger brothers; they all have gray skin and pink cheeks. Holland wears a fitted suit jacket; his jacket, tie, and collar are a collaged-in black-and-white photo, while his pants and feet are digitally rendered, making a visually entrancing combination. Holland’s problem is that he steals things—repeatedly. After his 37th apprehension, a police officer presents this choice: “either you go to jail or you join the army.” The following page repeats the options in hand-printed all-caps, and later the narration offers the decision—complete with check boxes—as a choice to readers: “what would you do if you were Holland? Would you go to jail, or join the army?” Whether the army’s meant as punishment or prevention, Holland chooses it and his life improves. Barely a military detail appears—just his new army uniform, a new faraway location, and the subtle presence of two rifles forming an easel for the paintings he learns to make as a substitute for stealing things. There are no military personnel, buildings, training, or tasks. Holland’s avuncular status—Lawson bases this story on his own uncle’s life—touches only the story’s title. Nelson highlights black and white, integrating tantalizing bits of found photography and ink drawings into digital illustration.

Austere and quirky, with lots of room for conversations.

(author’s note) (Picture book. 4-10)