Editorial Review

Kirkus Reviews Starred - Papa's Backpack

Cover: Papa's Backpack

Papa has gone for a soldier, and in poetic language, a bear cub imagines going along. Drifting into rhyme and out again the young narrator explains the situation thus, with an artfully placed page turn in the middle: “My Papa is a soldier, and sometimes soldiers go… / away for a while, to help for a while, so I can stay and play.” But wouldn’t it be fine to ride in Papa’s backpack, to be together all the time, “Me and my Papa, papa-papa-pa”? Like the narrative, the imagery in Carroll’s richly variegated, semiabstract art is full of oblique and affecting references. Between before-and-after scenes of a bear cub and an adult in a generic uniform jacket playing amid grass and flowers, a row of silhouetted animals carrying spearlike twigs march through barren country beneath a hot sun and then turn to face a lowering, bird-shaped black cloud. As the figures wave their sticks at the cloud, the language turns even more suggestive, if less childlike (“We’d feel the sting, the twisted wind. We’d taste the angry rain”). But then the desert storm is transformed to sunlight, the skies clear, and with a repetition of the opening lines, the two ursine travelers, exchanging loving kisses, make their way home. Heart-deep comfort for children of deployed soldiers, with resplendent illustrations. (Picture book. 6-8)

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