All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing

Carolrhoda. Feb. 2020. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781541526693.
Gr 2-5–Barton commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing with a tribute that uses spare text to explain the events, the immediate aftermath, and the longterm ways people helped others. The narrative states that 168 people died but does not go into detail. Instead, the author emphasizes the vulnerability and humanity of the victims and their relatives, friends, and neighbors. A tree near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was still standing after the attack and became known as the Survivor Tree—a potent symbol of growth and renewal. A memorial and museum was built. Some people cared for the tree, then collected and replanted its seeds. Seedlings were given to the families of the deceased and were also shared with others who experienced traumatic attacks to provide a gesture of comfort. Debut picture book artist Xu employs ink and Photoshop to create images that are appropriately dark and somber. More greens and blues are added as the tree grows healthier and people reach out to one another. The people, depicted with a variety of skin and hair colors, do not have facial features or expressions, allowing readers to project their own anger, fear, sadness, love, or compassion onto the characters. The narrative does not identify people by name, but detailed notes introduce several real people impacted by the bombing. Photographs of the tree are included.
VERDICT Books that help elementary-age children understand disasters are more necessary than ever, so it is helpful to find such a sensitively written and thoughtfully illustrated resource.

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