Two gifted Vermonters join forces to tackle the mysteries of death head-on.
A timeless question asked by children and adults alike brings together the voluminous talents of novelist, poet, and children’s author Alvarez and renowned woodblock artist Field. In this spare, rhymed poem, “Where do they go?” is the driving query of those left wondering and reckoning with loss “when somebody dies”: “Who can I ask? / Does anyone know? // Do they go where the wind goes / when it blows? // Do they fall with the rain / from the sky? / Are they my tears / when I cry?” Field’s visibly textured prints portray the bereaved here as, mostly, grade school–aged children of different races, allowing readers everywhere to relate. Especially moving are Field’s depictions of the departed in near-featureless blank white or black profile, vividly contrasting with the colorful, animated children longing to fill the absence of the missing loved ones. The text is laid out over and around the illustrations; calming horizontal lines of text and image complement one another on some pages, while on others the text is actively incorporated into the pictures. Without ever venturing an explicit explanation, Alvarez offers many tempting suggestions for those adapting to what remains and posits a wonderfully calming conclusion to a “small puzzle” that can sometimes prove large enough to unmoor those beset by loss of a loved one, especially for the first time.
Alvarez and Field’s remarkable synthesis of word and image here makes for a seamless, powerfully evocative contemplation of grief. (Picture book/poetry. 3-7)