Review of In the Half Room

In the Half Room
by Carson Ellis; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-5362-1456-7    $16.99

In a series of images that depict halves, Ellis ushers readers into a delightfully surreal setting. With pleasing rhymes (“Half a window / Half a door / Half a rug on half a floor”), the bizarre illustrations show a world of bisections. A woman, split exactly in half, sits on half a chair near half a table with, across the room, half a cat on half a rug. When the woman’s other half knocks on the door and enters the room, the two halves unite, making the woman whole again with an exceptionally child-friendly “SHOOOOOP.” While the woman rejoices outdoors, reveling under the light of half a moon, the cat’s other half enters the home, but instead of uniting, they engage in a half-cat fight. The page-turns are compelling, as one takes in the visually beguiling world of the halves, and the earth-toned illustrations include bright pops of pink (half a vase filled with flower halves) and yellow (the half-moon and stars that twinkle next to it). It’s a genuinely offbeat story embracing absurdity, and cat lovers everywhere will easily accept the asocial cat-halves refusing to “shoop” and merely falling asleep next to each other. A wholly entertaining tale.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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