Her Mother's Face, by Roddy Doyle

There was once this girl and her name was Siobhan. She lived in a big house in Dublin with her father. It was a great house, full of interesting rooms and corners, full of old magazines and old machines and old, old toys and teddy bears.
Siobhan spent hours and hours exploring the rooms and halls, and she always found something new. She loved the house.

Siobhan’s mother died when she was small. Siobhan can remember all sorts of things about her mother. She can remember her mother’s hands, her voice, her words. But no matter how she tries, Siobhan cannot remember her mother’s face. She’d ask her father but he’s too sad. She carries her sadness deep within her, and no one else notices. One day a woman tells her how to remember. She also has a message for Siobhan’s father. Siobhan races home and does as the woman suggests, but for a long time, forgets the message for her father. The illustrations are soft and gentle, in pencil and colour wash.

Her Mother’s Face is a gentle story about loss and remembering. Siobhan, the main character is sad about her mother’s absence but she manages to survive and function normally. Her father appears to have locked his grief deep inside and part of that means removing all the photographs of his wife. People work through their grief in all manner of ways and in their own time. The illustrations are full of emotion eg the opening where Siobhan is looking through her mother’s things. Siobhan is coloured as are many of her mother’s belongings, but the image fades to sepia where her father sits, alone and silent, in the next room. There are clues for the reader about the identity of the mystery lady who speaks to Siobhan. Her Mother’s Face is long for a picture book but all the words belong. It is a lovely and loving story that may be useful in discussing loss, grief and acceptance. Recommended for mid-primary readers and beyond.

Her Mother’s Face, Roddy Doyle Ill Freya Blackwood
Scholastic 2009

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author