The Heart of a Child: A Review of Hand to Hold by JJ Heller

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When my kids were little, they loved when I read to them—they still do—and they especially loved when I sang to them, even though my voice is nothing special. But putting those two activities together, a book you could sing, that was a favorite that they would beg for again and again.

Hand to Hold by JJ Heller is one of those special books you can sing (but only if you want to). Heller is a singer-songwriter who has become known for her beautiful lullaby albums, which are enjoyed by parents as much as their kids. Her new book, Hand to Hold, is a picture book version of her song by the same title. But you don’t have to know the melody or sing it to enjoy this book with your child. The rhyming text flows beautifully when read aloud.

This is the kind of book I can imagine becoming part of a bedtime ritual, bringing comfort and love at the end of the day. So much of this book is about the wonder of childhood: in nature, in the seasons, in exploring the world around them. Each page features a mother and daughter just doing ordinary things like baking cookies, skipping stones, or building a snowman. But it’s clear from the illustrations that the little girl is full of wonder and joy.

Wonder is so natural for children, but it’s something we often lose touch with as adults. As parents, sometimes we can renew our wonder through the eyes of our children. One of my favorite page spreads shows the little girl staring up at fireflies while her mother watches her. Those of us with kids know that feeling of experiencing wonder or joy while watching our children.

Hand to Hold invites us into that experience of vicarious wonder with these lines:

You help me find the magic in ordinary days.
Each minute is a marvel. No moment is the same.
You notice every sunset, reminding me what’s true.
You’re full of awe and wonder, and I’m in awe of you.

Hand to Hold, JJ Heller

This prayer that her child would never lose the wonder in her soul surely applies to the parent reader as well. May we keep or regain the wonder in our souls, perhaps reawakened to it through the eyes of our children, so that we can approach with the heart of a child our Heavenly Father, whose hand is always there for us to hold.

Click here to view Hand to Hold in the Rabbit Room Bookstore.

Carolyn Leiloglou is the author of Library’s Most Wanted and the Noah Green Junior Zookeeper series. Her poems and stories have been published in Highlights, Clubhouse Jr., Cricket, and more. You can find her on her blog, housefullofbookworms.com, where she reviews her favorite children’s books each month.


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