Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hughes (the Alfie books) once again uses small, everyday moments to craft a powerful story. To find work, Abel Grable must journey far and wide, leaving his wife and three boisterous boys. But when each job is over, he returns to his family and regales everyone with the fantastic adventures he's had. After one such trip, Abel decides to record some of his stories, moving an old table out into the garden to find some quiet in which to write. When Abel leaves again, his boys take comfort in both the stories he's left behind and those they create themselves, using their imaginations to convert his writing table into a campsite, a boat and then a machine for flying to the moon. Hughes's direct, unadorned prose gives both substance and depth to this wisp of a story line, as do her trademark watercolor illustrations, both beautiful and comforting in their sturdy, homey detail. The loneliness and longing created by a parent's absence are never explicitly mentioned; they quietly inform text and art as well as the story's interplay between fantasy and reality. Keeping sentimentality at bay, Hughes's restraint gives the characters' emotions unusual resonance. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Carol Lynch
Some children manage to find creative ways to fill the emptiness left when a parent is absent. Abel is a family man who must travel to find work, but he returns home whenever he can. His visits are filled with stories of his adventures; in fact, his sons request them so much that Abel decides to write them down. Lively household noise leads him to move his desk outside to the yard, a place that becomes a magical reminder of the children's connection to their father as he travels far from home. The watercolor illustrations capture a multitude of emotions that bring the family to life. This book is a treasure to be shared.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2 After Abel Grable returns from working out of the country, he tells his wife and sons all about his adventures. He describes camping out in jungles and taking supplies by riverboat to people in places with no electricity, with only the moon to guide the way. Because the boys love hearing these stories so much, Abel decides to record them. Finding it too noisy to work inside, he takes a table out in the yard, and writes for many hours. Then he goes off again. Using the table at which he wrote, Noah and Adam re-create their father's adventures or pretend that the table is a machine that can take them to the moon. That night, Adam realizes that the same moon is shining on him and on Abel, and on all people who love one another but can't be together. And, he imagines all the wonderful stories he will have to tell his father about his adventures. Hughes's deceptively plain writing style packs a subtle emotional wallop. Youngsters will appreciate the loving family, and enjoy the children's imaginative play. Hughes's humorous watercolor illustrations are at their best here. They effectively depict the luminous moonlight and the characters' changing feelings. They also make the little ordinary family treasures and clutter an important part of the narrative. The text and art fit beautifully together to create a moving story that can be appreciated on many levels. Anne Parker, Milton Public Library, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Shirley Hughes’ longer texts are expressively illustrated and full of rich imagery and language that will encourage more sophisticated listeners and beginner readers.” Daily Telegraph