Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Half a World Away

Half a World Away

Spring 2007 Picture Books
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Libby Gleeson
Illustrator: Freya Blackwood
ISBN: 0-439-88977-4
Hardcover Price: $15.99
The experience of losing a best friend is deftly captured in this story of Louie and Amy who have always summoned each other by calling “Coo-ee” across the fence that separates their two houses. But the day comes when Amy and her family must move far away to a huge city on the other side of the world. Louie is bereft and thinks of Amy every day; Amy is bereft and thinks of Louie. Hopefully, Louie asks his mother and then his father whether Amy will hear him if he calls “Coo-ee” really loudly, only to be told that she is “too far away.” His grandmother, however, has a different take on his dilemma. “You can only try.” she responds. And try he does. “His cry rang out across the yard, across the street, and past the edge of town.” His cry, in fact, is so loud it seems to shape the clouds, and somewhere, half a world away, Amy smiles in her sleep and dreams of Louie. This story makes no promises, and draws no conclusions, yet there is comfort to be had—in no small part due to Blackwood's gentle watercolor illustrations. Particularly effective is her use of color. The world goes monochromatic as the moving truck pulls away save for Louie's red-clothed figure and the two red arrows on the side of the van pointing to far away places. Similarly, Amy's arrival in the city, her figure dwarfed by towering grey-toned skyscrapers, is punctuated only by her red costume and a red traffic light glimpsed over her shoulder. Wistful without being sentimental, tender without becoming cloying, this is a natural for children facing unwanted change of any kind.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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