By Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sally Garland. Beaming Books, 2020. 32 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 5–8.
This simple story begins with a sad little mole living in a cozy underground burrow with his solicitous mother. He can imagine neither a reason nor a remedy for his sadness. Young readers who have experienced the stay-at-home spring in which I write this review may be especially familiar with this mood.
When his mother prescribes hope, he asks what it is and where it is to be found. She answers only the second question directly. “Sometimes, hope is hiding in the darkness . . . hard to see. But it’s always there. You just have to find it.”
His first question, about the nature of hope, is addressed by examples they encounter after they bundle up and make their way toward the light. The seemingly dead winter trees that will bloom later and the chrysalis that will disgorge a butterfly are familiar symbols, but a bulb (which they notice overhead while they are still underground) is more surprising. Under the right conditions, his mother explains, it will blossom as a daffodil. The illustrator picks up this motif in the endpapers. At the beginning of the book, a series of empty clouds is shown; at the end, each cloud holds a daffodil. Back home after the trip outside, little Mole feels his mood lighten at the prospect of change.
The book ends with a discussion guide for caregivers and tips for helping a child who is sad. The mole often describes things as “dead,” and his mother convinces him that they only seem so temporarily. I wonder whether, depending upon the reader’s understanding of death, this may be potentially confusing to some who have known people or pets who have died. For most children, however, this sensitively illustrated book offers a convincing definition of hope.
Ann Birch is a librarian, a grandmother, and the current clerk of El Paso (Tex.) Meeting.