School Library Journal - Papa's Backpack
School Library Journal (Jul 2015)
Papa’s Backpack begins with a thoughtful dedication to military families but becomes a much more universal allegory for separation by employing the simple symbolism of a child riding piggyback. Carroll’s use of spare and emotional language and earthy illustrations that play on contrasts and negative space expertly boils down and concentrates the confusion and longing a very small bear feels when separated from his Papa. The abstract nature of phrases (“We’d feel the sting, the twisted wind. We’d taste the angry rain.”) convey the feeling of conflict without specifics. Rather than ending with the question of Papa’s return, Carroll turns the focus back on the little bear who poignantly and earnestly reasserts that “if he could, he would” go too. The ambiguous nature of Papa’s journey makes this title uniquely applicable to many situations where a very young child and parent must be separated. VERDICT Carroll has created powerful work of stark beauty that honors the longing felt by those who must stay behind.