Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Review - All of a Sudden and Forever

All of a Sudden and Forever
by Chris Barton
illustrated by Nicole Xu
Date: 2020
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A profoundly moving nonfiction picture book about tragedy, hope, and healing from award-winning author Chris Barton.

Sometimes bad things happen, and you have to tell everyone. Sometimes terrible things happen, and everybody knows. On April 19, 1995, something terrible happened in Oklahoma City: a bomb exploded, and people were hurt and killed. But that was not the end of the story. Those who survived—and those who were forever changed—shared their stories and began to heal. Near the site of the bomb blast, an American elm tree began to heal as well. People took care of the tree just as they took care of each other. The tree and its seedlings now offer solace to people around the world grappling with tragedy and loss.

Released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, this book commemorates what was lost and offers hope for the future.

(synopsis from NetGalley; see it on Goodreads)

As this is a picture book about the Oklahoma City bombing, it's not exactly something one reads for enjoyment. While I appreciate the intent behind the book, and think it could be a valuable teaching tool, I can't really say that I liked it, or that it's going to be appropriate for everyone.

The narrative is quite simple and focuses mostly on the aftermath and the healing process. (The bomber isn't even named, and the bombing itself takes up a very small part of the narrative.) Much is made of the Survivor Tree, an elm that withstood the blast and has since been propagated and shared as a way to keep life going in the face of tragedy. The pictures are kind of different; the style looks sort of like collage, and details are spare (the people have no facial features, for example). It was probably a good choice to go this route, as too much detail in this could've been overwhelming.

I think I would be really careful about who I chose to share this book with. It would have scared me pretty badly as a child, and I would've been in a panic every time I saw a white truck. If your child is a worrier like I was, and they're too young to understand the statistical unlikelihood of a similar bombing happening in their own neighbourhood, it might be best to hold off on a book like this until they're a bit older. I'd say at least eight years old, because of the inevitable questions about the bombing that are going to arise; kids need to be old enough to handle some of the other details that are going to come up when this event is explored.

But I can see this being a good classroom read. It's especially nice to see what people did to help each other in the aftermath of the bombing. Even though the details in this particular book are a little vague, it gets the ideas across and keeps the memory of the event alive for kids (and potentially their parents) who are too young to remember the bombing themselves.

Thank you to NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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