Uncle Holland* is written by the same author that brought us Sidewalk Flowers JonArno Lawson. It is based on a true story about the author’s uncle, who exhibits a strong propensity for trouble. For example, he loves beautiful things and at times he cannot help pocketing them! He gets caught again and again and after the 37th time he is given a choice, jail or join the army.
He leaves behind a deeply disappointed family and travels to an exotic location where the beauty he encounters isn’t the kind that fits into his pockets. After all this time, Holland learns that instead of stealing, he can paint the things he thinks are beautiful so that he can keep them forever. He is even able to sell them in a local market to earn some money.
Uncle Holland is a powerful picture book because the protagonist is not perfect. In fact it is his imperfections and the journey he embarks on which leave the reader rooting for him. When Holland is caught for the 37th time, his brothers and parents become emotional and weighed down with worry. This book teaches us that Holland just has to find his own way.
Natalie Nelson’s beautiful illustrations are simple yet emotionally charged. Her use of blank space and use of color is powerful. At first, the illustrations are dominated by black, white and grays with occasional bright bursts of primary colors. When Holland travels south with the army, the setting changes drastically, revealing a world filled with color and wonder.
Uncle Holland is perfect for readers ages 4-8. The lesson will resonate with the older readers, while the illustrations will captivate younger ones.
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*I received a complimentary copy of Uncle Holland in exchange for my honest review.