BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, Illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson

MyFathersArms_Case.inddA dear friend lost her mother this week; even if a parent is granted almost a century of life well lived, the surviving child’s loss resonates for always. When a parent dies while the child is still very young, to understand and accept such loss must be an even greater challenge. Stein Erik Lunde’s gentle, caring story, with simple, beckoning art gorgeously created by Øyvind Torseter, provides comfort and understanding without artificial reassurance. Their team effort is a rare gift that belongs on every shelf.

A young boy goes to bed, keeping the door open to his father, “‘[s]o that your dreams can come out to me.'” But the house is “quieter now than it’s ever been,” and sleep eludes the unsettled child. He returns to the living room, and as the father holds him cheek to cheek, the two discuss the trees, birds, and fox outside.

The boy remembers his grandmother “at the old people’s home,” where his father laughed, and listens as his father explains that his mother will “‘never wake up again … not where she is now.'” Still sleepless, they bundle up to watch the night sky, perhaps catch a shooting star: “I wonder if our wish will come true if we wished for the same thing.” Under that vast darkness, the boy knows his “dad’s arms are like a boat,” one in which he will always find protection and warmth.

Artist Torseter uses a uniquely collaged style that combines crisp architectural model-like settings with hand-drawn people, animals, and comforting objects of home inside (a worn stuffed animal, a slightly open book, lined-up dirty dishes), as well as details of activities in motion outside, such as footsteps in the snow, growing piles of firewood in the making, the birds exploring scattered bread. The book’s message is clear: time, change, life continues outside, but home (together with father and grandmother) provides the waiting refuge. Death happens to us all, but the gentleness of this soothing story can help ease the way …

Readers: Children

Published: 2012 (United States)


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