In this poignant picture book about economic disparity, the different circumstances of their families do not stand in the way of two boys' friendship. When Robert, the new kid in school, invites his pal Jerome for a weekend sleep-over, Jerome has a terrific-and illuminating-time. Robert lives in a big brownstone, has a TV in his room, eats in fancy restaurants with his parents and wears silky pajamas to bed. Jerome feels uncomfortable thinking about how his family lives in a small apartment and how he's always slept in his underwear, never owning a pair of pajamas. Back at home, Jerome's father puts things in perspective when he tells his son, "This family has its own way of doing things." In his debut, Jackson infuses his well-paced story with a realism and relevance that make a difficult subject easier for young readers to understand. The characters here have a strong sense of identity, which allows them to adapt to different situations and readily accept each other. Soman's warm watercolor portraits provide emotional resonance to the text. His combination of accurate urban landscapes and universal interior settings gives the book added accessibility. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jerome, the main character, becomes friends with Robert, a new boy at school. Jerome's family faces economic problems, but the family's caring is as clear as their difficulties. It's also clear that Jerome has never thought about these things until he visits Robert's house where he's taken to a fancy restaurant, delights in the spaciousness, and is loaned a pair of pajamas. At home Jerome always sleeps in his underwear, and suddenly discovering the silky coolness of pajamas, makes him question how his family operates. Jerome grows quiet with these difficult thoughts, until he wonders aloud at using an old tablecloth when his grandmother visits. "There's been so much laughing around this table cloth, it could tell its own jokes, " his father says. "This family has it's own way of doing things. Grandma wouldn't have it any other way." Jerome's instantly relieved and grows even happier when Robert enjoys the differences when he spends the night at Jerome's. One of my favorite elements of the book is that both young boys are black, making a statement I've never seen in a children's book, that class and color are not always related. And most important of all, that while families may have different amounts of money, there can be equality in family love and respect.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Jerome and Robert, the new kid at school, became fast friends. Robert lives in a big house and- has lots of nice clothes. Jerome lives in a cramped apartment where his family is doing their best to get by with what they have. Robert invites Jerome for a sleepover. How exciting! The boys can make all the noise they want, because Robert's room is down the hall from his parents. At bedtime, Robert pulls out a pair of pajamas. How can Jerome possibly reveal that he sleeps in his underwear and that he has never owned a pair of pajamas? He pretends that he forgot to bring them. No problem. Robert lends him an extra pair. Oh! How cool and silky they feel against Jerome's cheek. As soon as he returns home, Jerome tells his parents about his night. Perhaps he might receive a pair for his birthday. This is a realistic look at how two friends understand their family differences. This is a beautifully written and illustrated story.
Children's Literature - Beverly Rice
PreS-Gr 3Two African American boys from different economic backgrounds forge a friendship. Jerome's family lives in a small apartment with thin walls and a cranky boiler. Robert lives in a brownstone large enough to play running games through the hallways and up and down the stairs. When Jerome spends the night at Robert's house, he is ashamed to admit that he doesn't have a pair of pajamas. Later, his father reassures him that "This family has its own way of doing things," and when Robert comes to visit, he sleeps in his underwear just like Jerome. Two pair of birthday PJs add to the happy ending. The readable text paints a picture of a caring family, featuring loving parents who take the time to explain and reassure. Similar to his high-quality artwork in Angela Johnson's When I Am Old with You (1990) and One of Three (1991, both Orchard), Soman's appealing watercolor illustrations create a realistic urban setting and convey a wide range of emotions. The artist is skilled at depicting expressive facial features, and, looking deeply into one another's eyes, the characters really do seem to be communicating. Despite the hot water problems, Jerome's apartment, with its comfortable clutter, a fluffy gray cat, and homemade artwork tacked up on the walls, is filled with warmth and welcome.Joy Fleishhacker, New York Public Library
Rita Williams-Garcia says in the "Booklist" Interview in this issue that class is too seldom addressed in books about growing up African American. This warm story of family and friendship does dramatize class differences, and it does so without polemics. Words and pictures personalize that universal childhood experience of entering the intimacy of someone else's home and discovering that daily things you took for granted can be different. Jerome's apartment sometimes feels cramped; the landlord hasn't fixed the boiler; Jerome has to be quiet at night because even on weekends his dad has to get up early to go to work. When he spends the night at his friend Robert's house, Jerome enjoys the space and the freedom in the big brownstone, but he's embarrassed that he doesn't have pajamas--he always sleeps in his underwear. Jerome's upset, but he overcomes his shame when his dad shows that his family has its own joyful way of doing things. The affectionate speaking voices are immediate, and Soman's watercolor paintings are a delight. Kids will pore over the informal portraits, the city playground scenes, and, above all, the pictures of the loving rooms of home.