I'll Be There by Ann Stott

Lynn: Oh that I-can-do-it-myself stage!  We want our little ones to become independent but it’s bitter sweet too.  And every child that proudly dresses himself or pours his own cereal still wants to be reassured that mom or dad, nana or papa are there just in case.  Ann Stott and Matt Phelan have wonderfully captured this push/pull feeling in their charming book, I’ll Be There (Candlewick 2011).

A little tousled-haired boy races ahead of his mother to wobble along the top of a stone wall.  “Did you push me in a carriage when I was a baby,” he asks.  In a series of tenderly drawn pages, his mother tells him all the things she did for him when he was a baby.  “Now you can do them on your own,” she says and the next set of pages reveals all the things the little boy does for himself.  A scene in which he makes his own breakfast looks just like the one at my house on a school morning – milk and cereal everywhere!  But even the most independent little soul wants to know he has back-up.  “Will you you still take care of me when I’m big,” he asks and is reassured when his mom tells him those oh-so important words, “I’ll be there.”

This lovely gentle book is a perfect snuggle-together book.  Matt Phelan’s pastel illustrations are both sweet and funny so the total package completely avoids even the hint of the saccharine, becoming tenderly wise instead.  A genuine treat for both the newly-independent and the adults in their lives.

Cindy: Books like this one make me wonder where the years went! My daughters are both in college now, but they still like to hear stories of when they were babies…just as they did when they were younger. I like this book as much for its encouragement of family storytelling as for the central theme that Lynn addresses. It does that admirably, though, and I have to admit that I much prefer this story to Robert Munsch’s well-loved but slightly creepy Love You Forever (Your mileage may vary). I agree that Phelan’s illustrations are delightful  but the scene of the mother asleep on the couch with an open book while the son and dog race through the room especially brought back memories. I’ve given up completely trying to stay up later than my daughters now! It’s hopeless!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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