Sharon spies a necklace of sparkling crystals on her mother’s neck as she is being tucked in for bedtime.
She asks her mother where she got the necklace. “The necklace belonged to your grandma and the other grandmas before her,” her mom answers. We are then introduced to those grandmas before her, going back six generations.
Wyeth takes us back in time, giving a brief description of each woman in her maternal genealogy. She focuses on a single moment in each woman’s life that in some way illustrates her character and personality to give us a poignant glimpse into her personal ancestry.
Although a story about someone else’s family history may not sound like compelling reading, the magic of this story is in the telling. Each woman in this story receives the granddaughter necklace at a point early in her life when she feels vulnerable or anxious or uncertain. The necklace acts as a reassurance to let the troubled child know that she is not alone; like a bead on a necklace, she (and all of us) is part of an endless chain that stretches back through time.
The courage and the strength and the wisdom of those who came before us is somehow a part of us as well.
It is a comforting message as enduring as the necklace itself. Another, more subtle message weaves its way through the story as well. Each mother is only identified by name after she gives the necklace to her daughter; a wonderful and poetic reminder that life is truly measured by what we give, not what we get.
The illustrations perfectly match the tone and sentiment of the story. With a grainy, textured photo-realism, Ibatouline creates wonderful snapshots-in-time to bring this family album to life. Her attention to detail in the clothing, architecture, and household items in each generation creates a visual time machine that immerses the reader in each era.
Read more book reviews by Brian Rock, a children’s writer and award winning songwriter.