by Meg Medina
illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
Candlewick Press, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written September 23, 2020, from a library book
Full disclosure: I was privileged to be on the Newbery committee that chose Meg Medina’s book Merci Suarez Changes Gears as our winner and thus changed her life forever. After an amazing dinner with her and with the rest of the committee and our big celebrations together, she has a special place in my heart and I will always think of her as a friend. So I was predisposed to love this book.
Though at the same time, I have read a zillion picture books about a child moving away or arriving in a new place, so I wasn’t completely sure this one would stand out. And since I only review a small percentage of the picture books I read, I thought I could just quietly enjoy this book and let it go by without notice.
But this book is marvelous. I am confident I would love it even if I didn’t already love the author. And let me also add that the illustrations are stunning – and I have no connection to the illustrator, so there’s clearly no bias there. I’ve read the book a few times, and each time the words and pictures go straight to my heart.
Here’s how the book begins:
Evelyn Del Rey is my mejor amiga, my número uno best friend.
“Come play, Daniela,” she says, just like she always does.
Just like today is any other day.
The two girls are pictured with different shades of dark skin. Evelyn is peeking in the window of the apartment. On the next page, we see a big truck with boxes ready to go inside surrounded by bright orange and yellow fall leaves – still on the trees, but also on the street and on the sidewalk. Some of the items ready for the truck are named in the text – “Evelyn’s mirror with the stickers around the edge, her easel for painting on rainy days, and the sofa that we bounce on to get to the moon.”
The painting is so evocative of a dark and damp day in late Autumn, still with dazzling leaves, and Daniela has lonely eyes as she looks at Evelyn’s things, ready to go.
But that changes when she gets inside, with Evelyn waiting for her. We see the girls running upstairs with grins on their faces.
We learn that the girls’ apartments are mostly the same except for things like the color of paint and the furniture, just like the girls are mostly the same. But as Daniela talks about what a great friend Evelyn is, we see packing going on behind them and around them.
We find a still-empty box near the door. In no time, I am a bus driver steering us all over the city. We play until the tables that were bus stops are gone and the beds that were skyscrapers have vanished, too.
When we look around, everything has disappeared except us.
They make plans to talk every day after school, to visit in the summer, but Daniela knows it won’t be the same.
And it turns out not everything is gone. Daniela sees some sparkly stickers in a corner, and they wear them on their cheeks as they say good-by.
Finally as the actual good-by happens, the girls’ faces crumple. Their mothers try to comfort them, though Daniela knows that Evelyn will always be “my first mejor amiga, my número uno best friend…”
And where tears came to my own eyes was when I turned to the last page and saw a much older adult Daniela smiling and looking through a box of letters containing a picture of Evelyn, with the words:
the one I will always know by heart.
My own best friend moved away after sixth grade. And yes, we are still best friends today. In fact, when I was 42 years old, I moved to the town where she lives, on the other side of the country from where we were friends as children.
I’ve read quite a few books lately about kids who have moved to a new town and have to face that their old friendships have dissolved. So I actually wasn’t prepared to see in this story a friendship like the ones I’ve been privileged to have – friendship that sustains you for your entire life.
Here’s to friends we know by heart.
Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/evelyn_del_rey_is_moving_away.html
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Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.
Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
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