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Ida, Always Hardcover – February 23, 2016
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“Inspired by two real-life polar bears, Gus and Ida, who were residents of New York City’s Central Park Zoo, this wonderful story about the loss of a loved one is beautifully told. It’s an example of children’s books at their best. Santoso’s dense, luscious paintings give the couple a solid, reassuring world to live in…. This is a difficult story to tell for both children and adults, but “Ida, Always” does it with simplicity and grace.” (Dan Yaccarino The New York Times Book Review, February 12, 2016)
A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year (5-8 category)
“I am in awe of this wise, endearing, tender and beautiful—so very beautiful—book, which is sure to become a classic of children's literature…. The words and the pictures meld perfectly to explore the emotional journey of love and loss, breaking your heart and then beginning to mend it.” (Judith Viorst, author of the bestselling Alexander books and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney)
*STARRED REVIEW* "Inspired by two polar bears that lived in New York City’s Central Park Zoo several years ago, Levis (Stuck with the Blooz) takes readers on a reassuring emotional journey that explores friendship, love, and loss.... Levis’s characterization of caring, supportive friends is spot on.... The description of Ida’s passing is brief, poignant, and gentle, as is Gus’s adjustment to life without his best friend. Santoso (I Don’t Like Koala) creates gauzy backgrounds featuring the city skyline and the zoo’s greenery, and his slightly anthropomorphic bears convey a wealth of feeling through their expressive eyes, smiles, and body language." (Publishers Weekly, November 2015, *STARRED REVIEW*)
*STARRED REVIEW* "Loosely based on Gus and Ida, the polar bears who lived at the Central Park Zoo until Ida’s death in 2011 and Gus’s death in 2013, this frank yet sensitive work explores loss and affirms the power of friendship.... While the tone is gentle, Levis is honest about the turmoil and anguish of terminal illness.... The quiet, lyrical text is complemented by the soft, evocative visuals.... Santoso’s design is particularly inspired, with good use of the gutter and perspective.... Although Gus experiences real loss upon Ida’s death, the book ends on a hopeful note, emphasizing the strength of the friendship and Gus’s memories of Ida. VERDICT A tender and honest portrayal of coming to terms with death." (School Library Journal, January 2016, *STARRED REVIEW*)
*STARRED REVIEW* "In an honest and upfront manner, [Caron Levis] gracefully reflects the complicated emotions of not only dealing with loss afterward, but living with the dying. In Levis's soothing narrative, Ida will always be with Gus, because, as Ida told him,"You don't have to see it to feel it." The polar bears are sweetly and expressively drawn, and the sky, clouds, shadows, sunshine and rain in Australian illustrator Charles Santoso's (I Don't Like Koala) softly luminous digital paintings all beautifully mirror the story's joy and sadness." (Shelf Awareness, February 2016, *STARRED REVIEW*)
“Ida, Always…stands out as that exceptional issue book that expands the audience into the realm of being a book everyone should read…. More than any other book on loss, Ida, Always manages to tell a story that is just as good at comforting a child experiencing loss as it is at explaining loss to a child who has yet to experience it. This second quality lifts Ida, Always into being “a book for every child.”” (Kenny Brechner Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker, April 7th, 2016)
"This is a picture book about loss and grief, so it is probably not a coincidence that it is pictorially dominated by skies. Santoso paints amazing skies.There's a spectacular view of the sky on almost every page of the story.... The book is very blunt about what's happening: "one day, when her body stopped working, Ida would die." Levis writes about death and the bears' mutual devotion with surprising beauty.... But some of the most affecting passages are hardly poetic at all... the pictures are so simple they're heartbreaking." (Kirkus Reviews, December 2015)
"This simple story of bereavement and friendship is made even more affecting by its richly colored, quiet illustrations.... A heartfelt and powerful depiction of loss and recovery." (Booklist, January 2016)
"This thoughtful story is a good way to introduce a discussion of death to young children.... The soft gentle illustrations perfectly complement the understated, quiet text. This would be a good addition to library collections on death and dying for children." (School Library Connection, May 2016, Recommended)
About the Author
Caron Levis enjoys working with kids, using drama and writing to develop social, emotional, and literacy skills. She was inspired to write Ida, Always by the brave students, teachers, and parents she met during visits with her first book, Stuck with the Blooz. She is an MSW candidate at Hunter College, with an MFA in creative writing from the New School, where she now teaches. She lives in New York City, where she grew up near the real Gus and Ida. Some sounds that remind Caron of people she loves and misses are: the squeak of a sticky candy jar opening, the whir of a rotary phone dial, and the crash-swoosh of the ocean. You can visit her online at CaronLevis.com.
Charles Santoso loves drawing little things in his little journal and dreaming about wondrous stories. He gathers inspiration from his childhood memories, and curiosities he discovers in his everyday travels. He has illustrated several picture books, including I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell. Charles also works as a visual development artist, creating illustrations for feature film projects. He lives and works in Sydney, Australia. You can visit him at CharlesSantoso.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
A pleasure for eye, ear and heart, Ida, Always focuses on sound to capture the loving relationship of two polar bears, the bustling zoo where they live and the vibrant city which surrounds them. (“Keys clicked and shoes clacked … buses groan,; trucks rumble …children laugh.” This encapsulates the theme: even when the people and places we love are out of sight, the sounds that surround us hold the audio track of precious memories.
Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees may find solace in a book like this because it invites them to intentionally search for and preserve good memories about relationships they have lost. Even when they lack actual memories, parents can help them imagine moments that his birth parents “might” have shared with them. Even kids with trauma histories are viscerally connected to their birth parents. They might benefit from finding some positive recollections, (Not to cancel out or invalidate any trauma or the reality of hurtful histories but as the first step to finding a way to heal any damage.)
--Gayle H. Swift, "ABC, Adoption & Me"