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Review of Jerome by Heart

Jerome by Heart
by Thomas Scotto; illus. by Olivier Tallec; trans. from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick and Karin Snelson
Primary    Enchanted Lion    32 pp.
4/18    978-1-59270-250-3    $16.95

Scotto and Tallec present a bittersweet story of an affectionate bond between two little boys. Raphael is the narrator, Jerome is his friend, and their friendship is particularly tender and emotional. “He always holds my hand,” reads the opening text. The accompanying illustration shows a distant perspective of an image similar to the cover art, with the boys riding bicycles hand-in-hand. Their obliviousness to the traffic jam behind them creates humor but also anticipates how they’ll, sadly, need to ignore others’ judgment of their friendship, rooted in implied homophobia and strict gender norms. Raphael’s father, in particular, disapproves of the friendship and thinks it’s “a pity” that Jerome doesn’t play soccer. (The accompanying illustration shows the two boys chasing butterflies instead.) But Raphael delights in his friend and in the joy and comfort he receives from him. “Raphael loves Jerome. I can say it. It’s easy,” he says. His parents’ disapproval mounts until Raphael rejects it openly, scowling and walking away from them with his arms crossed, while their tall figures loom over him. It’s notable that he’s angry rather than despondent. Raphael’s righteous anger fuels his resolve to remain loyal to Jerome and to his own heart. The poignant (and satisfying) conclusion has him restating his love for Jerome as they hold hands and run together “from the shadow out into the light.”

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

Megan Dowd Lambert About Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert is an instructor at Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. For nearly ten years she also worked in the education department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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