The Picture Book Buzz

This Way, Charlie - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

These days, many of us are finding interesting and unique ways to stay in touch and help family, friends, and neighbors. From creating masks to, cooking "together" via phones, or learning how to do video conferencing. My family discovered that Skype enables us to play Yahtzee with Grandma. We haven't quite figured out how to do card games (yet), but we're still thinking about it. This seems like the perfect time for a story on friendship.

Today's #PPBF choice is a story based on a very special, true friendship that developed between a crotchety goat and a gentle horse with increasing blindness. The team that created the beloved Ida, Always returns with another, touching friendship story to treasure.

This Way, Charlie

Author: Caron Levis

Illustrator: Charles Santoso

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (2020)

Ages: 4-8

Fiction:

Themes:

Friendship, trust, patience, and forgiveness.

Synopsis:

From the award-winning team behind Ida, Always comes a story about a friendship that grows between a blind horse and a gruff goat All the animals at the Open Bud Ranch can see that Jack likes keeping his space to himself. But when Charlie arrives, he doesn’t see Jack at all. He’s still getting used to seeing out of only one of his eyes. The two get off to a bumpy start. At first, Jack is anxious and distrustful. But one day, he summons his courage and guides Charlie to his favorite sunlit field: this way, Charlie. And so begins a powerful friendship that will be tested by life’s storms—but will ultimately change each life for the better.

Opening Lines:

Jack watched the new animals scamper, hop, flap,

and trot their way into Open Bud Ranch. Some would stay a short while, and others longer.

A few might make the ranch their home,

like Jack had when he’d needed a safe

and caring place to live. Open Bud Ranch had space for all kinds,

and all kinds of space to heal, rest, and grow.

Everyone could see that Jack liked

keeping his space to himself.

Why I LOVED this book:

First off, you should know, I am a sucker for horses! I loved the idea of a farm that provided sanctuary and a home for a blind horse. And because I know many horses who've struck up friendships with goats, I found the cover image of the two walking together totally enchanting. When you open the book, you meet the cantankerous (formerly abused) goat, Jack, glaring at the entire barnyard menagerie, that includes a cat with a wheeled walker, a peg-legged dog and pig, and a goose in a wheelbarrow.

Text © Caron Levis, 2020. Image © Charles Santoso, 2020.

Everyone keeps their distance from Jack. Everyone except the newcomer, Charlie. Blind in one eye, the horse often doesn't see Jack until he bumps into him. It's really touching when the owner explains to Jack that she can't cure Charlie's blindness, but that "she could give Charlie time to see in his own new way." Because "everybody deserves plenty of food, love, and patience." Such a great sentiment not just for the rescued animals at the farm. but for every inhabitant of the world - person and animal alike.

Text © Caron Levis, 2020. Image © Charles Santoso, 2020.

In two wonderful spreads, the lyrical text and creative illustrations show the reader Jack's observations and growing understanding of Charlie's disability ("Charlie’s eye had a soft glow— like the moon"). Eventually, employing a little meditation and dose of courage, Jack decides to show Charlie his favorite field, the stream, and shade. They develop a routine and a deep friendship.

When Jack still refuses to trust anyone enough to come into the barn in a rainstorm, Charlie stands above him and "gives Jack an inside . . . outside." And as Charlie becomes totally blind, Jack takes extra care to lead him to their field and back. But as in all friendships, sometimes fear or angry feelings and words can't be contained, and Jack lashes out at Charlie.

Text © Caron Levis, 2020. Image © Charles Santoso, 2020.

The ensuing bitter silence is consumed by a howling thunderstorm. And a tree snaps and traps Charlie. When push comes to shove, Jack has to decide what he's willing to risk to save Charlie. This is a great story about acceptance of others, compassion, forgiveness, and trust.

The beautiful, expressive illustrations and tender, lyrical text combine to create a wonderful book about the power of kindness and patience to heal old wounds and help overcome obstacles. It's a beautiful ode to friendship that I hope everyone gets a chance to experience.

Resources:

- read the post where Caron Levis and Charles Santoso ask each other questions (https://kidlit.tv/2019/08/this-way-charlie-cover-reveal/).

- do some of the social distancing activities in Caron Levis' ~ Walking Together—From a Distance: Friends Step Up to Big Changes (https://www.caronlevis.com/post/walking-together-from-a-distance-friends-step-up-to-big-changes) - leave a trail to follow (from a distance), leave chalk messages (or a joke) on the sidewalk, or make a sign poem.

- make a list or draw a picture of ways you could help a friend at school or in a club.

- try the breathing & visualization exercises of Jack & Charlie when you need a little bravery (https://12a42d98-e3a0-faba-4e64-994574e49625.filesusr.com/ugd/c0e481_a8b51dbfac5d47e1a2532254f40fbdfc.pdf )

- (with parents or a sibling, for now) take turns being blindfolded and leading each other through the house.

If you missed the interview of Caron Levis on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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