cover image Me and Momma and Big John

Me and Momma and Big John

Mara Rockliff, illus. by William Low. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4359-1

When John’s mother trudges home from her first day as a stonecutter, “She is gray as ashes, from her headscarf to her boots. Even her bouncy beaded earrings have gone dull as dirt.” What’s more, it’s all from cutting just one stone, “and it’s not done yet.” But Momma doesn’t mind the hard work because she’s a stonecutter at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, and what she does “isn’t just a job.... It’s an art.” With Rockliff’s (My Heart Will Not Sit Down) plainspoken lyricism providing scaffolding for Low’s (Machines Go to Work) incandescent realism, the story of a struggling family transformed through the joy and power of meaningful work is woven into the history of a beloved spiritual landmark. Whether the scene is inside the narrator’s modest apartment or looking down from the barrel vault ceiling onto the cathedral’s magnificent nave, every page is infused with golden light, quiet pride, and soaring hope. An afterword provides background on the still-unfinished cathedral and the training program that employed people like Momma. Ages 3–8. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Aug.)