Before I Leave

Jessixa Bagley. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62672-040-4
Zelda, a tiny hedgehog, is best friends with Aaron, a much bigger anteater. Now Zelda is moving, and her mother says that Aaron “can’t come with us”—although Zelda makes a valiant effort to pack him. So in the time they have left, Zelda and Aaron decide to play together “like nothing is changing.” Their games are wonderfully old-fashioned: tetherball, rowing in a boat, talking to each other via tin-can telephone. Bagley (Boats for Papa) lays bare Zelda’s uncertainties in a remarkably intimate first-person narrative: “I’m scared to go. But you say it will be okay, and you’ll see me soon. But I’m not so sure.” While the mood is mostly melancholy, the subtly textured watercolors and expressiveness of these two friends should persuade readers that this connection won’t fade with distance. More reassurance comes from the visual playfulness Bagley incorporates throughout the book, starting on the title page, when readers see the friends fishing from a bridge: Zelda has a conventional pole and line, while Aaron uses his very, very long tongue. Ages 3–7. Agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/2015
Release date: 02/16/2016
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