Author: Eric B. Anderson
Illustrator: Jakub Kuzma
This compelling picture-book story takes the form of a father’s nostalgic tribute to his growing child as he follows young Alena through a household journey in search of “Poppa’s favorite thing.” The story begins with a typical rainy-day predicament: Alena is bored, and Poppa must devise a way to fill her time. They travel through the house in a quest for his elusive favorite item, skirting the basement and under the stairs to end up in Alena’s playroom. An extensive sift through the varied mementos of Alena’s childhood leads to the revelation that she, herself, is Poppa’s favorite thing.
The touching if somewhat predictable plot is enhanced by Jakub Kuzma’s standout illustrations. The characters are unusually expressive; subtle nuances like raised eyebrows and sly sidelong glances are captured expertly on the page and give remarkable depth to the story. The drawings use light, movement, and shadows brilliantly, and there’s so much going on in each picture (from Poppa’s mismatched socks to the antics of the family cat) that a young reader will be compelled to reach for this colorful book again and again.
I found this to be a refreshingly modern take on the parent-child bond. Alena is a lively, active, and precocious character with whom girls will readily identify. One of the book’s main disadvantages is that it will likely lack a similarly strong appeal for boys. Some of its humor (such as references to the travesty in the basement) would also be lost on a young child. But in a market flooded with tired plot variations of how mothers love their children, this will be a welcome find for dads seeking a special book to read to their little girls. I recommend Alena & the Favorite Thing as a good addition to the libraries of today’s dads and daughters.
The above review was contributed by: Jennifer MacKay: Jenny has published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. She is also a journals copy editor for Sage Publications and does independent consulting as a developmental book editor. Her chief writing and editing interests are in the juvenile market.