cover image There, There

There, There

Sam McBratney, illus. by Ivan Bates. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6702-3

What is it about the repetition of “There, there” that makes a person feel instantly understood and comforted? While McBratney and Bates don’t venture into lexical semantics (thank goodness), they are eloquent on the phrase’s power as a manifestation of empathy. When their hero, Hansie Bear, suffers the minor slings and arrows of childhood (a stumble, a hurt knee, a head bump, sand in his eyes), his father gives him an enveloping cuddle, says “There, there,” and the cub feels “right again.” There are no big surprises in this simply told book, but it’s a deeply resonant story. Bates, who previously collaborated with McBratney on Just You and Me and other titles, offers softly radiant sketches that capture the reassuring warmth of the father’s furry embrace, while McBratney contributes some exceedingly lovely dialogue. “I was trying to walk like a duck!” the injured Hansie explains. “Well, that’s not easy,” says his father sagely, “unless you are a duck.” It’s not surprising that when Dad needs a little “There, there,” himself, Hansie is ready to step up: after all, he’s learned from a master. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)