'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 27 February 2017

Review: The Fix-It Man

Grief and loss is a difficult thing to master in picture books. Children have a vastly different way of both comprehending and understanding the concept, particularly when it's the loss of someone close.

The world surely becomes an incoherent tumble--a washing machine of confusion and uncertainty. And, ironically, it's often adults who struggle to come up with the answers--both in regard to explaining loss, and in providing comfort to children.

Books, of course, are a gateway to wonder. And they can be a gateway to understanding, too. Explaining larger issues through story is a wonderful way to help children grasp challenges and develop understanding ... where the ability to understand might be lost.

KBR's brand new Managing Editor has crafted a story that's tender, meaningful and uplifting, despite the inherent devastation of losing a mother. She achieves it by focusing on the everyday world of a little girl--with a heart-tugging parallel narrative on a father and the loss of his wife--and how the two come together to both grieve and support each other.

As the duo go about saying goodbye, there is much joy in that support--in smiling, laughing, playing, and making Mum's last days happy. And when a tea set is accidentally broken in the process of play, it's up to dad to glue it back together. Because Dad can do anything. He can fix anything, you see. Yes, he can.

But can he fix a broken heart? Two broken hearts?

This is Dimity's first picture book and it's a memorable creation. Nicky Johnston's soft and whimsical illustrations convey warmth and sunshine where it's called for and monochromatic desolation at just the right time. Her poignant details--like the kite hanging limply after the mother's death (where once it had soared high in the blue) and the cracked teacup...

The cracks are too wide. And tea seeps all over the floor.

If this page doesn't catch your breath and elicit a sob...

The emptiness is palpable in this scene, and the entire dance between image and text in The Fix-It Man has been done with immense tenderness and respect for three characters the reader will genuinely come to care about. And the last page ... grab the tissues.

Heartwarming, moving and thoroughly accessible to the very young--this is a book that will soothe the heart of many a reader. When it comes to loss and the possibility of understanding and healing, The Fix-It Man has nailed it.

Title: The Fix-It Man
Author: Dimity Powell
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 March 2017
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781925335347
For ages: 3 - 8
Type: Picture Book