cover image Loving Hands

Loving Hands

Tony Johnston, illus. by Amy June Bates. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7993-4

An entire category of growing-up picture books is really more for parents than for children, embracing sentimentality too avidly, but this volume hits the emotional mark with a genuine grace that doesn’t turn saccharine. The title sets up the literary conceit: hands signify the years and love that pass between a child’s birth and a parent’s old age—hands that play pat-a-cake and bake bread, hands that wash away painful stumbles and hold tight during scary moments, hands that know when to let go. In the book’s final pages, when the “mother’s hair turns white as salt./ Her memories slip like sand,” the son comes home to care for her. Just as she did for him at birth, he now “hums a tune that has no words/ and holds his mother’s hand.” Thankfully, Johnston (Bone by Bone by Bone) and Bates (The Big Umbrella) never overplay their respective hands—the lilting prose treads lightly, and Bates’s soft watercolor, gouache, and pencil portraits of the mother and son going about their daily lives offer a tender specificity alongside a comforting universality. Ages 4–6. [em](Dec.) [/em]