Before, Now

Penguin/Rocky Pond. Jun. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593461976.
K-Gr 2–Salmieri follows a woman’s life, from her toddler years to her senior ones, as she holds her grandson on her knees, showing him a picture of her younger self about to eat oatmeal in a highchair. This ingeniously crafted story, told in the third person, begins with a striking black Earth’s surface background, denoting celestial movement while highlighting this planet on the side. The story is simple yet profound, connecting elements of nature, city life, park walks, and scenes where human empathy develops as we grow with the image of a dog hoping to be adopted. The small font of the evocative narrative is filled with textual sensory meaning, with adjectives that invite preschoolers to feel in their imagination “wet waves,” “rough sand,” or a “prickly nest.” The story, set in one or two lines of text, also plays with opposites (“small person in a big chair” and “bright lighting in a dark cloud”), conveying a playful mood. This book masterfully bonds the plot with expressive art, where each pictorial element complements the words and emotions drawn from the main character’s life as a child, a teen, a professional, a mom, and a grandmother. It is ideal for engaging with children for a sensory story time at the emotional and age-appropriate intellectual level. The color pencil illustrations convey a sense of serenity, using symmetry and the color green as a thematic clothing unit to represent the main character as she grows older in this story.
VERDICT A biography-like picture book that invites children to feel, sense, and respond to textual clues.

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