Tess lives in a safe world full of love. Whether she’s at home with her parents, brother and dog, or visiting her grandparents, there is always love there, keeping her ‘warm, like a scarf’. Starting school is the first time she’ll be really on her own, but Mummy reassures her: ‘Love is like a string between us – it can stretch as far as it needs to.’
Kirsti Beautyman’s textured illustrations bring these love-threads to life, and are particularly effective when a frustrated Tess tugs at her string because Mummy is late to pick her up. The physical unravelling here, spilling out over the double page spread, is a powerful and empathetic depiction of emotional upset, supported by Corrinne Averiss’s references to specific physical manifestations: ‘Tess’s tummy fluttered and her heart beat fast.’
This is the third in Averriss’s sequence of picturebooks exploring the big emotions for young children, following Joy and Hope. It’s a gentle reassurance for children who might be prone to separation anxiety, as well as encouraging empathy for others – we see that Tess’s fellow students (a subtly racially-diverse group) also have strings that connect them to their loved ones, even after a family member has died.
The text is occasionally a little heavy-handed, particularly when it comes to adding adverbs to the dialogue; parents reading this to their kids for the twentieth time may find it a tad grating. But its capacity to soothe should outweigh such minor irritations.