Archive for December 8th, 2015


by Sam Juliano

Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo’s shattering Yard Sale confirms that all the money in the world can never supersede the love of family.  The book also documents the heart-wrenching relocation ritual of parting with domestic belongings that are far more cherished for their nostalgic worth than any kind of monetary value.  Yard Sale further chronicles a move necessitated by economic hardship from airy suburbia to the claustrophobic environs of the big city, where room is measured by inches instead of yards.  As such this exceedingly resonant picture book opines that it usually takes a cathartic event to appreciate something that too often is taken for granted.  While last year’s Bad Bye Good Bye by Deborah Underwood and Jonathan Bean recorded a cross country move, the mood was distinctly exhilarating, and the act more of a thrilling adventure.  Underwood’s book possesses a metaphysical undercurrent, while Yard Sale is achingly humanist from the first page to the last, rooted as it is in a mandatory situation beyond the control of its unwilling protagonists.  This melancholic work evinces remarkable chemistry between veteran children’s literature icon Eve Bunting and Caldecott Honor winning illustrator Castillo, who just last year was in the winner’s circle for her rapturous Nana in the City, another book anchored in kindred immersion.  Castillo’s lightening fast encore to Nana is beyond award-worthy, and in the service of Bunting’s impassioned prose, the art is poignant and elegiac, and a stellar example of how astoundingly well an illustrator can embrace and emote on an author’s vision.

The premise of the book -the need to forfeit a dream situation for one acutely restrictive- immediately sets the tone.  Declares Bunting:  Almost Everything We Own is spread out in our front yard.  It is all for sale.  We are moving to a small apartment.   A young girl is sitting forlornly on the top step of a lovely rustic two story abode overlooking the all-inclusive lot of items that have been put up for sale.  These include a teddy bear, a tricycle, patio and living room furniture, a boom box, lamps, a grandfather clock, hats, tennis equipment and a PC monitor, all items that would fall within the treasured sphere of memories.  To say that much of this three member family’s past activities have been invested in these properties would be an understatement.  The sadly ironic display of a three primary color balloon is meant to signal the event, instead it cues the end of a beloved time span in their lives.  Ever optimistic, especially to boost the spirits of their daughter, the mother announces upon a visit to their new dwelling that it is “small but nice.”  Castillo’s trademark bold style heightens the sense of loss, as the father pulls out a wall bed in the living room no less – the ultimate symbol of just how drastic their unavoidable trade off would be- and the darkened brown doorway and exposed wall is another painful reminder.  Then comes a subtle observation that won’t be picked up by all kids, but no matter as it is clarified further on the following page, when Bunting sadly asserts:  Today there are lots of people walking around our front yard, picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.  Of course when people ask the prices on things despite the fact that the cost is displayed it can only mean one thing. (more…)


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