My Strange Shrinking Parents

Australian author/illustrator Zeno Sworder's dedication in My Strange Shrinking Parents immediately sets a poignant tone: "To my immigrant parents. And to all parents who burden and narrow their own lives in the hope that their children will be free to go further." What pours forth in his "picture story told in 38 pages" is a remarkable celebration of unconditional parental love, his first-person text and lush illustrations founded on the "milestones of my journey from child to parent."

Sworder's "strange" parents came from "far-off lands" with "old shoes and empty pockets." But as "good parents, they did their best to hold me safely above the daily troubles they faced." In attempting to "give [him] the same as the other children," his parents pay with their very bodies. Two inches of height equal a birthday cake. School costs three inches per year. The boy grows taller while his parents shrink and work ever harder to provide. The son, bearing witness from babyhood to fatherhood, "learned from their example to wear my differences with my back straight and head high." Courage is his priceless inheritance.

Sworder (This Small Blue Dot) cites Japanese woodblock prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige as inspiration for his detailed, atmospheric and sometimes whimsical spreads. He also mentions Shel Silverstein, but Sworder has surely surpassed The Giving Tree in both illustrations and narrative, as his protagonist realizes that unconditional love must be mutual. Sworder gifts lucky readers of all ages a perfectly harmonized achievement in words and art. --Terry Hong, BookDragon

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