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About the Author

MEM FOX is the author of many acclaimed books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Possum Magic, Koala Lou, Time for Bed, and, for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She lives in Adelaide, Australia.


In this cyclical tale, Grandpa welcomes infant Sophie into the world; much later, Sophie is saddened when ``there was no Grandpa.'' The birth of Sophie's own child completes the circle. Fox's (Time for Bed) rhythmic, sparsely worded text (``Grandpa grew older and slower and smaller'') captures the deep love between Sophie and Grandpa, a bond emphasized in the artwork by the presence of oversized hands clasped in friendship. Sophie's development (``Sophie grew and grew and grew'') is contrasted with Grandpa's decline into ``little Grandpa,'' and Sophie begins to care for him as he once looked after her. Robinson (Elijah's Angel) paints in an almost aggressively naive style, playing fast and loose with perspective and line. Occasionally her efforts fall flat, but more often her compositions offer up a wealth of verve and emotion. This engaging picture book is eloquent in its simplicity, and its raw, densely peopled artwork saves it from sentimentality. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)

PreS-Gr 2-In a few very brief sentences, Fox charts the cycle of life within a family as Sophie is born and grows bigger while her beloved grandfather becomes older and slower. The cycle begins again after the elderly man's death with the birth of Sophie's own child. The words are kept to a bare minimum; the pictures fill in the emotional content, clarifying what is meant by ``Once there was no Sophie'' by showing her mother pregnant. The illustrations of a close-knit, extended African American family are highly stylized and Rouault-like in their thick application of paint, broad brush strokes, and black outlines. Despite the stylization, the faces are individualized. However, the pictures often lack the balance between artistic expression and the visual needs of young children as found in books such as Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach (Crown, 1991) or John Steptoe's Stevie (HarperCollins, 1969). Robinson makes hands the focus of many of the pictures; they are huge, distorted, seemingly boneless yet strong. For example, in the first picture, a group of adults form a semicircle around the pregnant woman and a mass of their outsized, intertwined hands dominates the center of the double-page spread. While this is an interesting and bold artistic approach, it is visually complex and may confuse the audience for whom the text seems intended.-Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY

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