From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 3–Exuberant colors and evocative text are a winning combination in this appealing story about a Ghanaian girl and her beloved grandfather. Before Grandpa leaves on a trip, he gives Sarah a beautiful shell and tells her that it is magic; if she holds it up to her ear, she will be able to hear the sounds of the sea. Her grandmother says, Don't go believing all that nonsense, but Sarah doesn't listen because her grandpa never, ever told a lie. As the story unfolds, day by day, for a week, the child becomes frustrated; she traverses her village holding the shell to her ear and hears the laundry flip-flapping, monkeys chattering, banana trees swish-swishing, plantains sizzling, pepper stew sput-sputtering–but never the sounds of the sea–until Grandpa returns. Radiant swaths of skillfully harmonized acrylic colors are accentuated by thick black lines, and spare yet expressive facial features glow from each page. One particularly striking scene shows Sarah and her grandpa sitting on a bench with their backs facing out: it is their postures that communicate the palpable tenderness of the moment. Large print, a reassuring narrative, and vibrant paintings make this book an excellent choice for storytime.–Kirsten Cutler, Sonoma County Library, CA
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PreS. Rooted in the daily life of a contemporary West African village, this lively picture book will reach kids everywhere. Before Grandpa goes to town for the week, he gives Sarah a shell, telling her that if she listens carefully, she will hear the sea. Every day she puts the shell to her ear, but all she hears are the busy sounds around her: Grandma doing the washing by the river; people yak-yakking in the market; food sizzling and sput-sputtering at home. Then Grandpa returns, and as the child sits with him in the still space under a tree, the shell lets her hear the waves pounding on the shore. With their simple rhythm and occasional rhyme, the words are beautiful, and so are the double-page acrylic illustrations in Wilson-Max's signature style, their thick, black lines and bright colors vividly expressing the loving bond between the child and her grandfather, the lively community, the wonder of the shell, and the magic of quiet. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved