cover image The Everlasting Embrace

The Everlasting Embrace

Gabrielle Emanuel, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Viking, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-670-78474-5

Presenting a portrait of a Malian mother and child (and inspired by the author’s yearlong stay in the west African country), Emanuel’s debut is written from the child’s perspective, though with an adult vocabulary and sensibility—an odd combination. Nestled in a blanket tied to its mother’s back (“my little cocoon”), the child observes that, “We are bound together.” Building on the idea, the baby takes comfort in knowing that neither of them needs to hold on to the other as her mother goes about her daily chores: “We are simply one.” Through her protagonist’s observations (“I have a front row seat on the world, where I can watch everything that happens”), Emanuel also portrays village life (grinding millet, learning to dance, walking through a busy marketplace), while maintaining a focus on this intimate family bond, even after the child grows too big to be carried. Lewis’s (Coming on Home Soon) dappled watercolors both ground the story in the details of its specific setting—fishing boats resting by the shore, vibrant clothing—and reflect the characters’ mutual, unconditional devotion, which stretches across borders. Ages 3–5. Illustrator’s agency: Dwyer & O’Grady. (Dec.)