Me and Momma and Big JohnTitle: Me and Momma and Big John
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: William Low
ISBN: 9780763643591
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2012.

This slight story features a mother and her three children. Told from the perspective of her oldest son named John, the book makes readers aware of his mother’s job carving stones for the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Also called “Big John” and “Saint John the Unfinished”, a afterward more detailed than the actual story talks about how the building of this cathedral has taken over a century and still isn’t completed. Construction was halted for both World Wars and didn’t begin again until forty years later. After resuming construction in 1982 with a program to teach skills to the unemployed which lasted twenty-five years, construction today is again halted due to lack of funds. Even under a temporary roof that probably feels more permanent to the community that utilizes the unfinished structure, people still gather for services and shelter. The illustrations by William Low are appropriately grand in scale, showcasing the size through the use of aerial shots and sweeping landscapes, but I half-expected something more detailed, like David Macaulay’s work. The jacket cover description also makes mention of being “inspired by one of the first women in the United States to learn the traditional craft of stonecutting,” which is not even mentioned much less detailed within the pages. In fact, there are few details about the trade, the history of the building, or information about the family contained in the actual tale.

Overall, I wanted more.

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