Hole once again tackles the hard issues in children’s literature, this time grief, with his now-signature blend of beautiful, thoughtful and quirky images (Garmann’s Secret, 2012, etc.).
Opening endpapers pay tribute to artist Magritte and begin a series of symbolic patterns with nails falling from a blue sky with puffy clouds. The quiet story starts as Anna, a girl with bold red hair, and her restless father prepare to do something difficult. Numerous clues, including a cloudlike woman’s face looking down from the sky, tell readers that the young girl’s mother has died before Anna acknowledges it. As Anna begins to ask such difficult questions as “How can God keep his eye on everyone?” her world turns dreamlike with Italianate designs and surreal imagery. Soon Anna and her father fly through a hole in the sky—which appears airy on some pages, as an underwater world on others and even a mix with butterflies and jellyfish floating together—as they make their way to heaven. They take turns questioning and offering possibilities (“Perhaps she’s in Paradise, doing some weeding”), finding comfort in their personal reflections, even if they don’t have all the answers. A hopeful ending offers a fitting closure to this intelligent picture book that will resonate with grieving children and adults alike. Readers of Hole’s previous books will also find subtle humor in repeat characters.
Deeply affecting. (Picture book. 8-11, adult)