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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 2 years, 3 months ago

13 April 2019 WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison, ill., Schwartz & Wade, January 2019, 40p., ISBN: 978-0-375-83615-2


“I don’t know how you keep on giving

For your kindness I’m in debt to you”

-- Natalie Merchant, “Kind and Generous” (1998)


“It was a rough few months for Mama and me. We were already poor, but we got poorer last April, when Daddy went to sleep on the front porch and never woke up. Mama cried and cried, ‘cause Daddy didn’t have a suit to be buried in.

Come June, we lost the farm and moved to a run-down shotgun house in the Bottoms.

On Friday the thirteenth, it rained frogs; everything flooded, and Smitty, my dog, disappeared.

‘Misery loves company,’ Mama said, shaking her head as she swept water out the back door. I hugged her up close, the way I always did when she was sad or I was scared.

‘Long as we have our health and strength, we are blessed, James Otis,’ Mama said, tryin’ to sound brave. But things didn’t get any better.”


James Otis is being raised well by a kind and generous mom. One Sunday, the preacher asks the congregation for donations for a mom and daughter in their black community who have lost everything in a fire. He reminds them that, “What is given from the heart reaches the heart.”


Despite their own dire circumstances, James’s mom immediately takes her prized possession, a tablecloth, and stitches it into an apron for the mom in need. Meanwhile, heeding his mom’s words and example, James contemplates his own meager possessions, none of which are in good shape. But the young boy digs deep into his heart and comes up with the brilliant idea of using his worn-down crayons to craft a handmade picturebook for seven year-old Sarah about a character named after her. Delighted by James’s gift, in an illustration that is also used for the back cover, the little girl holds her new and special book up against her heart.


WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART is illustrated by April Harrison in a distinctive and unique palette that is anchored by hues of baby blue, tan, and brownish-tangerine. The illustrator employs mixed media and found objects. For instance, she uses fiberglass drywall mesh to give Sarah tights their texture and a burlap-like material for James’s Sunday vest.


This is the final book by Patricia McKissack, who died in 2017. I have fond memories of meeting Ms. McKissack and her late husband Fredrick at conventions. Her award-winning GOIN’ SOMEPLACE SPECIAL, which was inspired by Ms. McKissack’s own childhood trips to the Nashville Library, remains a favorite of mine. WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART is a memorable story to remember her by.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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