Over the Shop
by JonArno Lawson
illustrated by Qin Leng
A chipper child lives with her grouchy, downward-turned-mouthed grandparent above their shop. When they advertise the flat above for rent, prospective tenants rush away from the dilapidated home. But then, one day, a couple peer in hopefully at the 'Flat to Rent' sign. The grandparent doesn't like the look of them and snatches the sign away. But the child thinks these new guests could be just the right fit and pleads their case. The deal is sealed and the couple move in, bringing with them help, hope, love and more than a few licks of paint. And sooner than you might expect, a new stitched-together family of four is made.
It is very difficult to convey quite how beautiful this wordless book is. It is, ultimately, a story of belonging, community and prejudice overcome; of 'outsiders'- two people of colour, probably two women (in any case a queer couple)- entering an inward-looking neighbourhood and creating a new household in their wake. At the centre sits a kind, observant child who embraces all of her world. Children will enjoy the parallel plot of a wandering, neighbourhood stray cat who naturally slots into the new family at the end. Classrooms will enjoy folding out all of the layers of the visual narrative. There are discussion points everywhere.
'I absolutely adored this. The pictures are gorgeous and the story satisfyingly full of detail yet easy to follow... Subtly but delightfully affirming, this will appeal not just to children who instantly recognise families like these but to many others who will respond to the warmth and inclusiveness that pervades the book' (Mark Jennett, Equalities Trainer/Consultant, Letterbox Library reviewer). NB: many of the gender identities are ambiguous and at least one reviewer has suggested the East Asian adult in the newcomer couple is a trans man which is certainly a possible interpretation. A trained 'queer' eye will note the book's dedication and will spot some extra visual signifiers in the detailed, delicate ink-and-watercolour illustrations. Age 4-9, Hardback40pp