On his first day of school, a young boy learns it’s OK to show his feelings no matter his age.
When Levi sets out for his first day at an unfamiliar school, Papa tells him, “Big boys don’t cry,” because he doesn’t know what else to say to calm Levi’s nerves. Along the way, Levi encounters men of all different ages and many walks of life stirred to tears by sadness, art, happiness, and love. At the end of the day, Levi learns his father felt scared about sending Levi to school too, and they both agree that it’s just fine for big boys to cry after all. Debut author and illustrator Howley sets the tone for this quiet, vulnerable story with softly colored illustrations and a quaint, seaside village setting. Both Levi and his dad are white, while the background characters are diverse (though there is not much variation to the spectrum of brown depicted). Details around the home, such as the pictures on the wall, suggest that Levi’s father is a single parent. His sensitivity makes him a refreshing representation of a father character, as does his willingness to accept and grow from his mistake. The overall lesson about men showing tears is made all the more effective with its representation of a range of feelings beyond sadness.
A compassionate story that encourages openness and honesty about emotions. (Picture book. 3-7)