Little things matter.
Many classic children’s books are shaped around very small, very important moments, and at first Feder’s story might not seem to fit that pattern. This picture book is about a big life change: Hannah is leaving all her friends to move to a new neighborhood. Her grandmother promises her it will be “definitely some bitter but even more sweet.” The story is told through tiny, poignant details. Hannah sees everything she owns packed onto a big truck; she watches her home “disappear from sight” through the window of a car. These moments don’t always have the impact they should, and the final pages of the book feel almost anticlimactic: Hannah’s new neighbor Maya offers her some hot chocolate. And, in fact, the chocolate turns out to be bitter. But Hannah discovers that, when she adds sugar to the powder, it’s delicious. The last few lines of the book are poetic. Hannah tells her grandmother, “I thought it was only bitter here,” and when her grandmother asks if she’s found “the sweet,” Hannah says, “You can’t just find it. You have to add it yourself.” Nothing else in the book quite reaches that level of beauty, though Brooker’s illustrations are a marvel. Her collages seamlessly blend the most basic geometric shapes—circles for heads—with ultra-detailed photographs and are populated with mostly light-skinned characters. Hannah’s family is Jewish.
Some of the small, important moments feel smaller than necessary, but the last scene is a tiny, perfect gem. (Picture book. 3-8)