Josiah's Reviews > Now One Foot, Now the Other

Now One Foot, Now the Other by Tomie dePaola
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Jan 12, 10


This is an amazing story. It's easily one of an elite few picture books that I have ever encountered in terms of its emotional profundity, and of the sensitively powerful scene that Tomie dePaola masterfully sets in a way that I have never previously seen from him as a writer.

Now One Foot, Now the Other is as simple as its title, yet never falters in the strength of its emotional bond with the reader. It's the story of a young boy named Bobby, who is named after his Grandpa Bob. The two of them share a close relational connection that goes beyond just sharing a first name, and the first part of the book lovingly shows all of the simple activities that they enjoy doing together, and how these everyday things serve to make them so close. To Bobby, his grandfather is not "Grandpa" but "Bob", a unique nuance to their relationship that emphasizes their same name and makes their link together even more special.

Everything changes one day when Bob suffers a severe stroke. Now, he can no longer walk or talk, the very basic tasks that he had taken such pride in helping Bobby to learn. He can't even eat on his own anymore, or really move at all. The doctors say that Bob doesn't even know who Bobby is anymore.

Bob has to spend months in the hospital, and five-year-old Bobby sits up at night, for the first time scared of the future. Even when Bob eventually comes home, Bobby still is scared: Bob is nothing like he used to be. He lies in bed most of the day, or just sits in a chair when Bobby's father walks him to the living room.

A profound connection like the one that Bobby shares with Bob just can't be silent forever, though. Through one seemingly inconsequential action on Bob's part Bobby becomes convinced that Bob recognizes him as his grandson, even though his mother tells him it can't be true. He determines not to be scared of his grandpa, and to help lead him back to be the Bob that he once was. Hope dawns golden bright as we realize that Bobby is right; Bob does recognize him. Bobby finds himself helping his grandpa to relearn the same life tasks that Bob had taught him: how to walk, and talk, and eat. The road is long but Bobby never succumbs to discouragement, and gradually we see a heartening improvement in Bob.

Whether or not Bob is ever restored to all that he had been before the stroke, this book casts out a powerful lifeline to anyone who has ever been in a situation like this, or who has ever found themselves losing hope over anything in their lives at all. Now One Foot, Now the Other is a quiet story with superb, very profound emotional resonance. A deep sense of love surrounds everything about the story, and it is this love that will so deeply affect the reader. It is one of the three best picture books that I have ever read.
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