January 7, 2016
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat
by Stein Erik Lunde
illustrated by Oyvind Torseter
Enchanted Lion Books
“My dad isn’t listening to the radio.
He’s sitting in the living room, where
the only sound is the crackling of the fire.”
“When I was there with him, I saw the tongues of fire lick his face.
I went over and put my hand on his arm, and he patted my hand.
Then I went into my room and got into bed.”
But our young narrator can’t go to sleep. He’s worried about the red birds out in the snow. What if they bread that they left for the birds is gone by the time the birds get there. Granny says that red birds are dead people.
Yes, I know it sounds a little strange but it isn’t as much strange as it is dreamlike and quiet and more than a little somber. In the course of the book, we learn that mom has died and that the narrator and dad are learning to go on without her. Dad assures the young narrator that everything will be all right.
Part of the reason for the unfamiliar feel of this book is that it wasn’t originally published in English, but Norwegian. I haven’t read a ton of Norwegian books so I don’t know if this is typical for a book in that culture or not but it isn’t entirely typical for the fast-paced humor of US picture books. It isn’t that nothing happens but it is definitely a book of emotion and mood and the somber feel is entirely appropriate.
The illustrations are cut paper, ink and three-dimensional paper sculpture all worked together and photographed. I would definitely recommend it for a family coping with a loss if you can handle the honest, moody nature of the book. There are no candy sprinkles and whiz-bang endings. No empty promises or sparkling, neon lit tomorrows. Just dark and quiet and people loving each other as they work through until tomorrow.