Is Was

Deborah Freedman. Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7510-6
In serene watercolor and pencil spreads and gossamer prose, Freedman (Carl and the Meaning of Life) marvels at the mystery of change. As the book opens, washes of blue sky give way to thunderclouds, then darts of dark blue rain that slash across the page: “This sky is/ the same sky that/ was blue/ but now is// spilling down.” Hand-painted words appear: “is is is.” A page turn shows puddles left behind—“the same rain that was drips/ is now for sips/ and song.” A bright yellow bird drinking at a puddle starts at a fox’s arrival, a painted “was” marking the place the bird occupied. More scenes of transformation follow. Throughout, Freedman creates an atmosphere of wistful wondering, personified in the final sequence by a parent and child gazing at the sunset. The blue sky (“Blue is”) turns rose (“Blue was”), then fills with stars, the child lingering for one last look. Addressing the puzzle of impermanence, Freedman finds the beauty in transitional moments through a book that also offers a quiet way to begin conversations about loss. Ages 4–8. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/11/2021
Release date: 05/01/2021
Genre: Children's
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