Parents and children alike will cherish Carolyn Beck’s That Squeak, a sensitively rendered, accessible story about grief and friendship. At the center of this beautifully illustrated tale is the bond between best buddies Jay and Joe, who shared big bike-riding adventures during an idyllic summer. Heading down the lane that led outside of town, Jay on his blue Monster Man, Joe riding his Red Devil, the pair escaped to their secret creek-side spot, where they ate apples and skipped stones. The squeak of the Monster Man’s seat was always at odds with the quiet of the countryside, and the boys came to love the noise.
But a tragedy has taken Jay away. After his funeral, his Monster Man stays locked up at school, a reminder of its lost rider. Joe, grief-stricken, resolves to take the bike home—a decision that leads to a surprising friendship with a new student named Carlos, who “looks like he never had a bike that wasn’t stolen from somebody else” and isn’t at all the type of boy Joe expects him to be.
Writing in a style that’s plainspoken yet delicately poetic, Beck brings a light touch to a difficult topic. She has a gift for arresting imagery—the boys pedal past cows with spots “like continents” and nostrils “like holes into the next universe.” François Thisdale’s gorgeous artwork—a blend of drawing, painting and digital illustration—captures the brisk energy of the boys’ bike rides while evoking the wistfulness of memory. That Squeak is definitely special, a standout story worthy of a permanent spot on the family bookshelf.