From School Library Journal
Grade 1–4—Mixed-media collage illustrations, prominently featuring oversize, digitally altered photographs of human heads, reflect Garmann's anxious thoughts in his last summer before he begins school. Signs of autumn abound in nature and in his elderly aunts' annual visit. The six-year-old side of Garmann thinks his aunts are shrinking and soon may not be able to see over the grass, naively offers one aunt his skateboard when she says that soon she will need a walker, and worries because he has not lost his first tooth. The tooth seems more urgent as he compares himself to the twins next door and notices his aunts' dentures, also shown as part of the photo collages in which size, proportion, and color draw the eye into the youngster's imagination. The introspective boy wonders about life's transitions and asks the aunts about aging and their possible fears of dying. He also asks his violinist father and his serene-looking mother, "What are you scared of?" In the end, Garmann sees that everyone feels fear and yet goes on living. He says good-bye to the aunts, organizes his school bag one last time, checks his teeth, counts the hours until school—and accepts his anxious feelings. With its literary tone and distinctive illustrative style, this unusual picture book is for larger collections.—Julie R. Ranelli, Queen Anne's County Free Library, Stevensville, MD
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*Starred Review* Garmann’s summer is ending, marked by seasonal changes to the natural world, and by the similarly dependable visit from his three elderly aunts. As he readies for first grade, he interviews the members of his extended family about their own journeys and apprehensions. In their responses, he glimpses the immutable nature of the passage of time and the simple glory to be had along the way. As Michael Rosen’s Sad Book did with grief, this poignant picture book, originally published in Norway, looks at uncertainty from the inside out, not as the by-product of the first day of school but as an organic thread in the fabric of life. Rather than simply tackling the worries that come with change, this rare book plumbs the underneath, capturing the abstract feelings that reside in a child’s heart and reflecting them back. The arc of the story is totally original, with elements unfurled in an authentically childlike arrangement of skips and imaginings, ending at the beginning. And the illustrations, spacious, quirky mosaic collages comprising photos, old-fashioned etchings, and wallpaper samples are utterly compelling as they depict the whole of life’s array without a trace of sentimentality. In a feat of deceptive simplicity, Hole has crafted an elegant, fanciful, wholly poetic exploration of the nature of fear and the strength and hope required to conquer it. Grades 1-3. --Thom Barthelmess