Monday, December 14, 2009

The Friend by Sarah Stewart and David Small

A tiny red-headed girl spends her days under the loving eye of her family's Black housekeeper, who saves the child from drowning when she ventures off on her own. The watercolour illustrations by David Small capture the sunlight and breezes of a seaside home in summer. Author Sarah Stewart (Small's wife) dedicates this book to "all the people across the world who have saved the lives of children by paying attention when others did not -- but especially to Ola Beatrice Smith." It is clear that the tale is autobiographical: Beatrice Smith is the name of the housekeeper within the story and the final page shows the child grown into a woman, standing by a typewriter and pressing her hand to a locket over her breast. On the back end pages, the locket lies open and Small has collaged a photo inside: a black woman holding a red-haired baby. Children from pre-school to Grade 2 are the obvious audience for this picture book, but adults will appreciate it on a different level. A good pairing for readers who enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

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