This is a blog specifically created for the purposes of my Literature for Children and Young Adults class at Texas Woman's University. Coming soon will be reviews of titles ranging from children's fiction to poetry to young adult novels. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Juster, Norton. (illus. by Chris Raschka). 2005. The Hello, Goodbye Window. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN 0786809140

The Hello, Goodbye Window is a day in the life of a little girl whose grandparents watch her during the day while her parents work. But that’s not what the book is about. As its title implies, it is about the special window in her grandparents’ house; the window where everyone stops to say hello, where one can see who’s arriving, where one sees one’s reflection it is from the outside looking in. At the end of the day, the little girl’s parents come and she is has mixed emotions—happy to see her parents but sad to leave her grandparents.

This book’s qualities may go misunderstood by adults, but it is easy to see why children fall instantly in love with its conversational, stream-of-consciousness style. While at first glance, the book seems to be about a window—no matter how special it is—this book’s true message is that one small, obscure object can be the one thing that connects everything together. That window is what the little girl sees when she arrives and departs. It is the portal, the frame through which she sees the world while her parents are away at work. It is almost like a security blanket that she revisits throughout the day, the one constant thing (other than the presence of her grandparents) but ironically something that is also in constant flux—you never know who or what is going to appear in the window. Perhaps the most long lingering message of the book is that one can be both happy and sad at the same time (as in when her parents arrive at the end of the day but she must say goodbye to her grandparents). That or the comfort that the window will always be there and that someday, she’ll have a special window of her own.
The illustrations, as if parallel to the story—echoing it, may seem messy to an adult at first glance. But closer inspection reveals the attention to detail and the emotion allowed to come through in the bright and varied colors. The artwork seems like a combination of the simplicity of Picasso and bright colors and lack of definition of Matisse. And something even more ingenious is that many people may not notice at first that the little girl’s grandparents are an inter-racial couple—which also echoes their colorful personalities.

School Library Journal (starred review) calls The Hello, Goodbye Window “perfect for lap-sharing” and “this book will find favor with children and adults alike.”
Booklist (starred review) says “two well-known names come together in a book that speaks to the real lives of children and their experiences.”

This work could facilitate discussions on myriad topics ranging from the emotional roller coaster a child faces when their caregivers are someone other than their parents to the joys and diversity of an interracial, multicultural family. From the idiosyncrasies of family life to how strong the imagination can be—how it can turn a neighboring cat into a tiger and let one’s own reflection play tricks on one’s mind.

Reviewed by Joelie Key-Tissot 09/09/06


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