cover image My Father’s Arms Are a Boat

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat

Stein Erik Lunde, trans. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson, illus. by Oyvind Torseter. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59270-124-7

It’s quiet, it’s winter, it’s night, and a boy can’t sleep. He makes his way to the living room, where his father sits, not listening to the radio; he holds his son, and they discuss the birds and foxes outside. “Granny says the red birds are dead people,” the boy tells readers, a line that rings out like a shot. Then the silence and the gaping sense of absence in Torseter’s ink-scratched, cut-paper dioramas become clearer. “Is Mommy asleep?.... She’ll never wake up again?” the boy asks when they go out into the snow to look at the stars. Lunde’s first book to be published in the U.S. doesn’t soften the way that the death of a parent and spouse irrevocably alters life. His writing is lovely in its spareness, but also hard-edged, even in the story’s many moments of tenderness (“We look straight into each other’s eyes. His eyes, black as night, are dark and deep in his face”). Pain is never far from the surface, yet when the boy’s father assures him, “Everything will be all right,” in the final scene, readers will believe him. Ages 4–up. (Feb.)