I have made my fair share of moves in my life. While I lived in the same house for more than 15 years while growing up (all of my childhood memories involve that house), I have spent the rest of my life changing houses every two or three years. Sometimes it's been just moving across town, sometimes it's been moving across the country. And if I've spent most of my adult life moving, Frances and Gloria have made many moves as well. In Gloria's seven years, she has lived in five places! And while the circumstances that we moved in haven't always been the happiest, the girls have always learned to love something about each new place - our neighbors, our backyard, the neighborhood playground.
In Yard Sale, Callie's family is moving. They are moving from a house on a cul-de-sac to an apartment with a Murphy bed. It's a big change, and because they are moving to a much smaller place, they won't need all of the furniture they currently have. So Callie's parents host a yard sale. On the very first page, Callie states "Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard. It's all for sale." You can immediately see how Callie feels about the move. She sits on their front steps, chin in her hands, totally dejected. Her life is changing and it's clear she is not comfortable with what is about to happen. The family goes to look at the new apartment, and Callie says "'It's all nice.'...But it didn't feel like ours."
On the day of the sale, Callie feels even more uncertain. She sees a woman haggle over her headboard because there are crayon marks on it. She cries when a man buys her bike, even though her dad reminds her that they don't have room to ride the bike outside the apartment. Callie tries to participate in the sale cheerfully, but she thinks "I hate people buying our stuff. It's not fair." She doesn't want to move, but knows she has to. She doesn't have any choice in the matter.
And her parents feel the same way. One of the most beautiful and poignant things about this book and the collaboration between Bunting and Castillo is how easily you can surmise how torn the parents feel about this move too. The parents' emotions aren't the focus of this story, Callie's emotions are. But their complicated feelings are so crucial to how Callie deals with the move. They are trying to make the best of a bad situation by pointing out the cool Murphy bed in the new apartment, even if Callie doesn't accept their overtures. As the sale winds down, exhaustion takes over her parents. "Anything that's left my dad is selling cheap. He and my mom look droopy. My dad is rubbing my mom's back." In the picture, they look like they are holding each other up at this point in the day - sad, tired and uncertain.
Then something happens that shifts everyone's attention. A woman comes up to Callie, who is slumped over, waiting to be done with the day. "'Aren't you just the cutest thing?' she says, smiling. 'Are you for sale?'' While I'm sure the woman meant it in a friendly or funny way, it was the exact wrong thing to say to a little girl who already knows that this move has to do with money, and the her family is downsizing. Will they get rid of her, too? Callie has a moment of sheer panic, and "A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head." She is a little hysterical as she goes to her dad, who reassures her that he won't sell her, "'Not for a million, trillion dollars.'" The illustration here focuses on Callie wrapped tightly in both parents' arms. All of the busy movement around them at the sale falls away as they take comfort in each other, and feel each other's sadness.
The story ends with Callie's acceptance of the move, now that she has been reassured. She notes "...it's OK because we don't really need anything we've sold. And those things wouldn't fit in our new place anyway." Perhaps the biggest reason that Callie is becoming more accepting of the move is due to what she realizes on the very last page. "But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us." She has a newfound knowledge that their family won't change, and that is the most important part.
This change is hard on Callie in a number of ways. One of those ways is that she feels like she is losing many of the things that are her history. For instance, the woman who haggles over the headboard with the crayon marks doesn't have any idea that those marks were how Callie counted the number of times she read Goodnight Moon. And it is clear to Callie that the woman doesn't appreciate her crayon marks at all, that Callie's history actually devalues the headboard. She decides to give her best friend her heart necklace because Callie knows that her friend Sara will appreciate the necklace.
There is a delicate interplay between adults and child in Yard Sale. As I've mentioned before, her parents' attempt to make the best of a trying time leads to Callie's conflicted emotions. They are trying their best to keep everything positive, but their body language tells another story. Once they all admit their mixed emotions, the little family can move on, together.
This was the story that started off my Lauren Castillo-fest this fall. I read a blog post that mentioned Yard Sale and I then proceeded to check out as many of the books that she had written and illustrated as I could. That's why I also reviewed What Happens on Wednesday in September. I love Castillo's illustrations overall - I love the families she depicts. They are real - sometimes frumpy, sometimes sad, but not afraid to show their imperfections. It makes me feel like I can relate to these families, whether or not my family resembles the one on the page. They are real. The colors she uses here are soft (but not necessarily pastels) and lend tenderness to the book.
Yard Sale is one of those moments that many children will feel strongly about. They may have moved, they may have had a yard sale to get rid of excess stuff. Frances and Gloria have done both, and could relate to how Callie felt. Children may also remember a time when things in their own family were not so certain. Whatever the situation, Yard Sale is a book that celebrates the staying power of family.
Yard Sale. Eve Bunting; illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press, 2015.
borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library