Review posted July 26, 2019.
Scholastic Press, 2019. 40 pages.
Review written July 5, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Standout:
#3 Picture Books
Oh, this is a wonderful, joyous, and tender book about grief and about sharing burdens in friendship. I wish I could show the bright and joyful pictures. The editor here did the perfect match of illustrator to words.
Elba is a pink hippo-like creature (reminds me of a Moomin) with downcast eyes and Norris is a crocodile who walks upright. They live in a bright, springlike landscape. Here’s how the book begins:
Elba had a big block.
She’d been dragging it around for a long time.
It made her walk slowly.
It made her think darkly.
It was heavy.
Norris danced everywhere he went, even uphill.
One day, Elba was sitting on her block in the park, like she usually did.
Along came Norris in a cloud of butterflies.
At first Elba couldn’t see him in all that shininess.
Norris tries to get Elba to go on a picnic with him, but she wants to sit on her block, like she usually does. (The block is the one dark thing in the pictures.)
Norris stays and talks with Elba. He feels something sad in the block that wants to come out, but they don’t know how. By the end of the day, they say, “Maybe tomorrow.”
The next day, it’s raining, and Norris brings tea to Elba. “They had good, quiet tea with rain in it.”
The next day, Norris shows up again.
Tomorrow didn’t come, but another today did.
“It’s really time,” said Norris, “because I want you to come to the ocean with me.”
“Okay, I’ll just take my block,” said Elba, surprising herself.
“But it’s too heavy,” she added. “Right?”
“My butterflies and I will help you,” said Norris.
Indeed, the butterflies carry the block for Elba, slowly, all the way to the ocean. We learn what’s causing Elba’s sorrow as she tells about her friend Little Bird, whom she misses so much.
And after that, Elba’s block is smaller and lighter.
I hope I’m not giving too much away, and you really do need to read this book yourself, but I especially love this page at almost the end:
Together they stood and faced the roaring sea.
“I’ll always have this block, you know,” said Elba.
“Yes, maybe you will,” said Norris.
“But I will help you carry it sometimes.”
One lovely thing about this book is that you don’t have to be an Elba to appreciate it. If you’re a Norris, you can learn from his sweet, listening spirit, and his generosity with his butterflies.
It’s a friendship story and works as a friendship story. If there’s a big dark block of grief in your life, it will resonate all the more, but you don’t need that to love this book.