cover image Her Mother's Face

Her Mother's Face

Roddy Doyle, , illus. by Freya Blackwood. . Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-81501-7

In his first picture book, Doyle (Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha ; The Giggler Treatment ) draws on magical realism to leaven a story about grief. It begins in the language of a modernized fairy tale: “There was once this girl and her name was Siobhán. [She lived with her father in] a great house, full of interesting rooms and corners, full of old magazines and old machines and old, old toys and teddy bears.” But Siobhán's mother has died, and Siobhán cannot remember her face. Years pass as the girl carries her grief silently, until a meeting with a stranger in the park brings unexpected consolation and solid advice (look in the mirror, the woman tells her); many more years pass before Siobhán realizes that the stranger was her mother. The storytelling flows gracefully between the naturalistic details (the sight of mothers buttoning their children's coats intensifies Siobhán's pain) and the magical encounter. Blackwood (Half a World Away ) magnifies Doyle's optimism in her limpid watercolor and charcoal art; she focuses on moments of connection, while cues in her compositions (e.g., a kitten that ages with Siobhán) underscore the message that life goes on. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)