Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, September 14, 2017

For Her Son

Many an educator stands in the hallways of schools around the world at the end of the day watching students pass, secretly sending blessings their way to keep them safe, healthy and happy.  Once they leave our classrooms and libraries, we have no way to offer them further education until they return to us the following morning or after a vacation.  If it should happen to be the final day of a school year, we hope with all our hearts we have provided them with the knowledge and skills to ensure they live the best life possible until we meet again.

For parents this desire is surely stronger.  In Your Hands (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 12, 2017) written by Carole Boston Weatherford with illustrations by Brian Pinkney is a deeply moving request.  It is reverent.  It is full of faith.

When you are
I hold your hand and study your face.

I name you
firstborn son.

This mother, like so many mothers, holds dreams in her heart for this child.  She takes his hand to keep him safe as he learns at home and school.  And when he is sad, she comforts with affection.

A bedtime ritual of stories and reminders of living by the Golden Rule usher the child to sleep.  As the child grows, this mother realizes she cannot always be there to offer assistance.  This is when a prayer is made to God to hold this boy in His hands.

She asks for safety.  She asks for the child to walk with assurance.  She asks for guidance.  These things can be as everyday as navigating a street crossing or as challenging as becoming a teen.

When she says

I will pray that the world sees you as a 
child of God

she wants for this beautiful boy of hers as every parent wishes for their sons (and daughters).  This is a universal desire.  This is a universal connection between parents.

She continues to define what it is to be a child of God.  This child is seen for their inner character.  This child is given second chances so lessons can be learned.  This child is given bravery.  This child is able to stand strong.  She closes with asking for a long life for this beautiful boy of hers so he too can have sons and grandsons.  This mother's words on the first of the final two pages are being sung throughout the land.

The first several times I read this silently and then aloud, it was as if I was seated in a sanctuary of a church.  When I just stepped outside moments ago to the evening sound of katydids I knew this prayer would resonate wherever it is spoken.  Carole Boston Weatherford writes with a pure heart of truth.

She begins with the love song of a mother to a newborn.  She follows with the mother's thoughts as she imagines a future for her son until he, too, is a parent.  The voice of this woman, this mother, is sincere, founded in love and in the knowledge of the world as it is.  Here is a sample passage.

I will 
that you are
in neighborhoods beyond our own
and that you feel confident
when you face new challenges. 

Viewing the fluid lines of artist Brian Pinkney is the same as receiving an invitation.  They reach out, draw you into the text, embracing you even after the last word is read or spoken.  The illustration on the front of the dust jacket of the boy held in the hands of God is gorgeous.  The title text is raised and varnished.  To the left, on the back, the mother is cradling her newborn child in her arms.  The colors used for them are golden yellows and oranges.

Beneath the jacket on the book case covered in powder blue we see on the right the title text in white with the mother's hands reaching downward to help her son take his first steps.  The same illustration as on the back of the jacket is on the back of the case.  A pale mint green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The front book case image is repeated prior to the title page.  To the left of the text on the formal title page, Brian Pinkney again has a picture of the child walking within the hands of God.

Rendered in watercolor, gouache, and India ink on Strathmore watercolor paper the pictures fill the pages opposite the narrative placed on varied pastel shades of yellow, blue, pink, purple, and a brighter burnt orange.  Warm shades whirl around loosely drawn elements in black.  Each visual is breathtakingly beautiful, certainly worthy of framing.

A favorite illustration of many is of the child sleeping.  Above his head are swirls of black, pink, blue and yellow and one brush stroke of pale purple.  As he rests his head on his pillow with closed eyes, his mother's hands reach to tuck the blankets around him.  In a truly tender moment the boy's hand is reaching to hold one of her hands.  On his bedspread vehicles race in a scattered pattern.  Brian Pinkney continues to place loose brush strokes of pink, blue and golden orange within the mother and child.

In Your Hands written by Carole Boston Weatherford with illustrations by Brian Pinkney is not only a prayer but a promise.  It is this mother's assurance to her boy child she will do everything to lift him up so his life can be fulfilling and lasting.  This is every mother's hope, but in this title it is the song sung for an African American child by his African American mother.  This title is highly recommended to be on all bookshelves, professional and personal.

To view the websites of Carole Boston Weatherford and Brian Pinkney to discover more about them and their work, please follow the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  

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