Review of Carpenter's Helper

Carpenter’s Helper
by Sybil Rosen; illus. by Camille Garoche
Primary    Schwartz & Wade/Random    40 pp.    g
3/21    978-0-593-12320-1    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-12321-8    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-12322-5    $10.99

It is spring, and Renata is helping Papi renovate the bathroom. They cut a hole in the wall where the new window will go, and one night Papi leaves the hole open. The next morning, Renata finds dried leaves and pine needles in a heap on the bathroom shelf; a wren flies in and continues building. Renata watches the papa wren make a nest. The mama wren arrives and lays her eggs, and Renata and Papi pause their construction project while the wren family grows. When the baby birds are finally ready to fly, they need a bit of help to make it to the window, and Renata uses her carpentry smarts to save the day. The story blends building and nature-watching in a unique and engaging way: the building project forms a relatable backdrop (Renata can’t wait to use the old-fashioned tub they’re installing) and parallel to the nature story, which takes center stage. The digitally colored pencil illustrations use a variety of compositions, including spreads and small vignettes, to carry readers through a detailed experience with the humans’ carpentry project (“Renata…holds a board while he nails it into place. This board will brace the wall when he cuts the hole for the window frame”), and then the wrens’ nest-building (“First he lays down a floor, a cozy cradle for eggs. Three thick sides go up next”). Renata is a protagonist whose wonder and curiosity shine throughout, and readers will gladly share in her unexpected encounters with these small visitors, who are, as Renata declares, carpenters too.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Autumn Allen
Autumn Allen

Autumn Allen is an educator, writer, critic and independent scholar of children's and young adult literature. She holds an MA-MFA in children's literature and writing for children from Simmons University, and a master's degree in education from Harvard University. She is the 2020-2021 Writer in Residence at the Boston Public Library.

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