Me and the Boss

h1 August 24th, 2022 by jules


“‘You!’ She wraps me and Bess in her special hug, and we share something that is bigger than my pocket, bigger than Bess’s ear, maybe even bigger than me or Zora.”


 

“I know big sisters. Zora, the boss, she’s mine.” That’s Lee, Zora’s little brother, in Michelle Edwards’s Me and the Boss (Anne Schwartz Books), illustrated by April Harrison and coming to shelves in October. Lee knows Zora is in charge, and he does his best to keep up with her. The two visit the library one day, where the librarian, Mrs. C, teaches a group of children how to sew.

Lee struggles at first but keeps at it. At the library, Zora stitches a flower, but Lee’s work is unfinished. While Zora proudly shows her parents her work at home, Lee hides his: “I don’t want them to see my mess. Not yet.” During the night, he wakes to finish his project, sewing a moon with a smiling face. But he also patches a hole in the pants of his pocket, and in the morning mends the ear of Zora’s favorite teddy bear, Bess. That gets him the “special hug” pictured above.

Edwards captures the bond between an older and young sibling with honesty and humor, the older sister here wielding her power over her younger brother with the bossing of the title. (Harrison depicts this with such authenticity. Just look at Zora’s stance and her face on that cover, pictured below!) Yet we see in more than one moment conveyed in the story that she also, clearly, loves him and tends to his safety. There is a moment, for instance, in which they walk home at night from the library, and she squeezes his hand, as if to say, I will protect you. (Here, Lee turns to look right at the reader too.) She takes her responsibilities as the older sibling very seriously.

Readers get the sense Lee is eager to impress his elder sister, although one of the book’s funniest moments is when she gets right back to bossing him after she gives him that tight, affectionate hug when she discovers he’s mended her bear. But one of my favorite things about this story is that we also get the sense he truly wants to learn how to sew, and it’s refreshing to see a picture book depiction of a boy eager to learn. (We more often see girls sewing in children’s books.) The author nails the sense of empowerment he feels with his new skill — even deciding to keep sewing and mend the hole in his pocket through which his quartz rock falls — and the ways in which he talks himself through the ups and downs of learning: “Take your time, Lee,” he says to himself in his bedroom at night, as he determindedly works to finish his project. The book even closes with a set of instructions for “How to Make Lee’s Smiling Moon” (written by the author and Alisa Weinstein).

Harrison features an appealing palette dominated by various shades of teals and including subtle touches of rose. Her illustrations — rendered in collage, acrylic, and pen and pencil — are highly textured and incorporate mesmerizing patterns on every spread. The repeated use of circles throughout the book communicates a sense of security and comfort. Here are a few spreads. …

 


“I know big sisters. Zora, the boss, she’s mine. I go wherever she goes,
and we are always home before dark. Those are the rules.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


 


“The boss makes a fine flower. ‘What’s that?’ She points at mine.
‘A half-moon,’ I tell her, but Zora isn’t really listening. She is busy stitching.
I look at my jumble of threads. I am done. I reach into my pocket and there’s a hole where my quartz rock used to be. I dig deeper and the hole gets bigger. ‘Stop squirming,’ the boss orders. ‘I need to finish my leaf.'”

(Click spread to enlarge)


 


“In the near dark, me and Zora are long shadows. We stick together. She walks fast,
and I walk fast, too. I reach for her hand, and she squeezes mine.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


 


(Click cover to enlarge)


 

* * * * * * *

ME AND THE BOSS. Text copyright © 2022 by Michelle Edwards. Jacket art and interior illustrations copyright © 2022 by April Harrison and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Anne Schwartz Books, an imprint of Random House, New York.





3 comments to “Me and the Boss

  1. As a librarian who teaches library kids how to sew and a big sister who really cared (but was also the boss, I guess), I especially love it!


  2. This looks so wonderful—even in this quick peek, I can feel all the emotion and can see that the marriage of words and images is especially powerful. Can’t wait to see the whole thing!


  3. It’s not just that he sews, but he’s a BLACK boy who sews – the hypermasculinity often pushed on kids of color when they’re young can be even more intense than for others, as America busily locks them into armor-plated gender roles. I love this.


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