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
Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert created the Whole Book Approach storytime model in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and is a former lecturer in children’s literature at Simmons University, where she also earned her MA. In addition to ongoing work as a children’s book author, reviewer, and consultant, Megan is president of Modern Memoirs, Inc., a private publishing company specializing in personal and family histories. 

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Caspar Melmoth

I am a queer person raised in the South. I don't want to assume what your meaning is but I will say this: As much as I would like to see more narratives depicting parents as accepting and loving to their kids I also find this narrative just as important for kids to consume as there are definitely children in the world that experience this sort of oppressive and unwilling behavior from their parents. It's important as it is cathartic and vindicating for children going through similar experiences, and it could help in feelings of isolation and alienation that they might not be the only ones experiencing these sort of situations.

Posted : May 15, 2022 12:04

Jim Miller

I loved it. Beautifully designed and written. However, I can’t help being concerned about the way parents are portrayed as being insensitive, incomprehensible, judgmental and verging on homophobia.

Posted : Dec 29, 2018 05:41



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