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Half A World Away Hardcover – March 1, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2—Best friends Amy and Louie build pretend towers, see magical creatures in the clouds, and regularly climb through a hole in the fence into one another's yards. The special "Coo-ee Am-ee" or "Coo-ee Lou-ee" call is enough to bring one or the other running. But then Amy's family moves "to the other side of the world" and the two friends are bereft. They think about each other night and day until Louie comes up with a way to send his special call out to his friend. Blackwood's watercolor paintings depict the imaginary world in which the two children are immersed. There are playful touches, such as tissue-box shoes, a colander hat, and a laundry-basket tower. But their playfully colorful world changes when Amy leaves. Though clad in red, Louie looks out on a neighborhood awash in gray as her moving van pulls away. A tiny Amy, also clothed in red, stares up at the gray skyscrapers and apartment buildings of her new city. Both children appear downcast and alone on subsequent pages, but the power of the imagination triumphs in the end. Loss of a friend is a common childhood experience and is the subject of many picture-book stories. This one is unique in that a new friend doesn't immediately come along and the two children must find a way to cope.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
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*Starred Review* Best friends Amy and Louie are never far apart. From across the room or the playground, they call to each other with a special word: "Cooo-ee!" Then Amy's family moves "half a world away," and the children long for each other. "If I call Amy really loudly, she'll hear me, won't she?" Louie asks. Only his grandmother is encouraging: "You can only try." Louie belts out his loudest "Cooo-ee!" and across the ocean, half a day later, Amy happily declares, "I dreamt about Louie and he called me." In rhythmic, pared-down words, Gleeson captures friendship's intensity from a young child's viewpoint. In simplest terms, she also communicates the sometimes tough-to-grasp concept of global distance: "When you are awake in the day, [Amy] is asleep at night." Blackwood's tender, realistic watercolors reinforce the friends' sweet closeness and magic, particularly in the few wordless spreads that skillfully shift perspective from aerial views of Louie's seaside village to seahorse-shaped clouds, which race across the ocean and hover outside Amy's high-rise as if to visualize the impact of Louie's cry across the world. Subtle, direct, and profound, this quiet story communicates the deep joy and unbreakable bonds that true friends share, and it will reassure little ones who know firsthand the aching sadness that separation brings. Gillian Engberg
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