cover image Jerome by Heart

Jerome by Heart

Thomas Scotto, trans. from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick and Karin Snelson, illus. by Olivier Tallec. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59270-250-3

Raphael, the young narrator of this groundbreaking picture book, loves his friend Jerome. “It doesn’t bother me at all,” the boy explains. “Raphael loves Jerome. I can say it. It’s easy.” Jerome is caring, generous, funny, and always ready for adventure. Most important, he reciprocates Raphael’s affection (“He always holds my hand. It’s true. Really tight”), even though there are intimations that Jerome is more socially adept: “Jerome always sees me, even when he’s with friends.... He defends me when kids make fun of me. Incredible, right?” Although Raphael’s parents never put a label on it, their son’s intense affection for his friend and his unfiltered expression of it clearly bother them; Dad seethes, his voice “like sharp fish bones in my hot chocolate.” But the bond between the boys is unbreakable, and as the book closes, they blithely walk across the street together, holding hands. The story invites conversation among readers of all ages, and the sensitivity of the minimalist text (despite a few overwrought moments) and poignancy of Tallec’s radiant, gentle art are undeniable. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)