- The Great Henry Hopendower by Justin Roberts
ISBN 978-0-399-25744-5 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R 5–8 yrs
Henry is on a mission to find magic, which, as his magician grandpa used to say, is everywhere. He heads to his closet and digs out a brown leather suitcase and his grandpa’s red suit—the essentials of a successful magic act—and remembers the days when visiting Grandpa meant going to his house rather than relying on memories of their past adventures. Clutching that red suit, he allows the faint aroma of his grandfather’s “magic-scented water” to bring back memories of his grandpa, such as his amazing disappearing coin trick and the “famous leaning tower of pancakes,” which defied gravity and were so delectable that they could only be attributed to magic. Even more enchanting than Henry’s magic is Roberts’ gentle way of addressing how Henry handles the loss of his grandfather. The text has an uplifting tone despite the sad subject, and even the name Hopendower reflects the main character’s gift: hope endower or giver of hope. The watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil illustrations show that grief has not impeded Henry’s ability to feel as he shuffles through emotions: the excitement at the prospect of a new magical task; the frustration when a trick does not go as planned; and the solace felt when memories of his grandfather provide a solution. Henry taps into his imagination conjuring memories of old and plans anew, and likewise the creators of this picture book have achieved a favorable balance by connecting the present with the past. And as a bonus, pancakes!