One of my grown children just sat and read Leave Me Alone! and laughed long and loud, saying, “This is the most relatable book I have ever read!”
And it is. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the too muchness of too many demands from too many people – even people you love – you’ll relate to the old woman in Leave Me Alone!
It’s autumn, as the story begins. Winter is coming. And she needs to knit warm cozy sweaters for all her grandchildren. But she couldn’t. There was just too much going on. And she was at the end of her rope.
So she packed up all her knitting stuff, and went off in a huff, shouting “Leave me alone!”
So far, it might remind you of that classic, Five Minutes’ Peace, with the mama elephant who just wants to be left alone for five minutes. But then things start going just a little bit crazy. Because when the old woman finds a quiet spot in the woods to knit, some bears find her. And when she shouts “Leave me alone!” at them, they don’t respond, because they don’t speak English.
Then she climbs the nearby mountain, and finds a cave where she can knit. And some mountain goats find her. And when she climbs to the moon, there are little green moon men. (I told you it went a bit crazy.) And then there were wormholes.
It’s an amazing, funny, warm, relatable, delightful story, full of unexpected twists and turns.
The illustrations in Leave Me Alone!
And the art is as delightful as the story. The author-illustrator, Vera Brogsol, is a cartoonist, a writer of graphic novels, and a storyboarder for animated films. You might have read Anya’s Ghost, or seen Coraline or ParaNorman. Given all the other things she’s done, perhaps it’s not surprising that this, her very first picture book, is so wonderful. Wonderful enough that it’s a Caldecott Honor Book! I don’t know how many debut books have been given that honor, but I suspect it’s not many.
Oh, and like the protagonist of her story, she knits.
Her illustrations have all sorts of little surprises, if you’re paying attention. The mountain goat that follows the old woman to the moon. The icon over the old woman’s front door.
And they have big surprises, that you can’t help but notice. The absolute blackness of the void beyond the wormhole.
And the joy when she returns home.
Chicken Sunday: A Review: One of my very favorite Easter stories, by one of my favorite authors (Patricia Polacco), and another book where children might notice icons in the background.
Last Stop on Market Street: A Review: After church on Sunday, a grumpy boy and his grandmother ride the bus to the last stop on Market Street.
17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.