At first glance, Do You Remember? seems to simply be a story of a mother and son sharing fond memories. But look closer and each memory deeply reveals a piece of their life together: the excitement of berry-picking at a picnic, the woes of learning to ride a bike, the tension and darkness of a rainstorm.
As in his previous Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning picture book Small in the City and the acclaimed I Talk Like A River written by Jordan Scott, author and illustrator Sydney Smith uses ethereal watercolors to enhance his lyrical text and beautifully bring each memory to life. The images and the memories themselves feel almost dreamlike as they evoke joy and thrills, anxiety and melancholy.
After the boy and mother take turns sharing memories, the boy somberly asks, “Do you remember . . . leaving our home behind? We packed up everything we own in our truck and drove down the highway, farther than we’d ever been.” “Of course I remember,” his mother replies.
The landscape changes from hills and hay bales and fields of wildflowers to cityscapes and traffic jams, and Smith’s illustrations subtly reveal changes not only in the environment but also in the family itself. We see through two beautiful, wordless spreads that the move they remember has only just taken place; this whole time the boy and his mother have been reminiscing upon their half-unpacked belongings.
As the sun rises, the boy decides their first morning in their new home can become a memory too. From the window, he sees his new street, smells the bakery across the road and hears the buses below. Although the first night has been hard, the magic of this first morning brings assurance that all will be well. “Yes,” he thinks, “I will remember this.”
Whether you have experienced a move, a change in your family or even just a stroll down memory lane, this nostalgic tale will find its way into your heart as it reminds us that our memories will guide us through the changes of life. Sydney Smith beautifully captures all the fear and hope that comes with change in this heartfelt picture book about remembering and starting anew.