Baer holds a lens up to everyday life and helps us see the refractions of both its mundane and miraculous beauty. During an ordinary day, a little boy named Abe observes, wonders, remembers, and asserts both independence from and love for his family. The seemingly random speech of a young child is realistically depicted as Abe flits from one topic to another and back again, but patterns emerge as Abe shows his love of nature and his interest in the past. This slice of life has a little of everything from humor to quiet contemplation, and reminds us just how complex and beautiful any moment can be. The collage art is equally complex, managing to be abstract and extremely realistic at the same time. The characters are real individuals with live, expressive faces. Inclusion of interesting scraps in the collage creates nuances of shadow, and the choice of blurry scraps for background provides a sense of zooming in for a closeup. Meaningful words can be found buried in the collages by observant readers. The changing color of the text is an effective way of indicating who is speaking. Abe’s mention of the mezuzah on his house and his awareness of the Hebrew language reveal that he is Jewish. As in Baer’s earlier book about Abe’s brother, I Only Like What I Like (Bollix, 2003), the child’s Jewish identity is integrated into the story as a normal part of his life, but remains a minor aspect of the book. However, Abe’s excitement about butterflies and birds and his sorrow when he steps on an ant can be seen as expressions of the Jewish values of tikkun olam (caring for the world) and ba’al taschlit (avoiding needless destruction). The author empowers readers to act on these values by including an endnote suggesting ways to protect monarch butterflies. This is a lovely and meaningful book that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Its theme of family connection would best be celebrated by shared readings, and children are sure to ask, like Abe, what they did when they were little. While the Jewish content may be too subtle for educational purposes, the book presents an inspiring portrait of a family whose Judaism is lovingly integrated into daily life. For ages 4 – 7.
Heidi Estrin is librarian for the Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the Association of Jewish Libraries.