The first story told, “In Loco Parentis,” sets the stage as a family deals with death. A single mother struggles to understand her son’s behavior as he takes a liking to “his dead father’s old duffel coat.” Not only does this coat resemble something left of him, where wearing it might prevent the child from having to let go, it also represents past behaviors and understanding how to handle them in the present. It’s astonishing to see a child speak the words of his deceased father, with those words being so crass, and witness its effect as the mother soon realizes change is inevitable despite the same message – perspective comes in all shapes and sizes.
Is it possible that “Winter Boots” simply presents the challenge of a teacher helping a young student put on his shoes? Yes, yes it does – and it comes with a frustratingly humorous exchange. The ever-present need for teachers does not go unnoticed during this chapter, especially since a teacher’s daily routine includes communicating with children that do not always articulate everything they need the first time they ask for help. Robbins' clever back-and-forth between student and teacher perfectly illustrates the struggles teachers see every day, while the child doesn’t necessarily know that what he’s saying might cause confusion again and again.
“All the Way” describes the ensuing pains from pursuing love as a teenager. Agnes tires of her solitary life and hopes to satisfy this feeling “to be cared for.” What are friends for? Ellen sets a plan in motion to help her friend, and along the way, deal with the fact that Agnes cannot find a connection during a couple of blind dates. This story captures the anguished thoughts of a teenager, while trying to vocalize what someone truly wants in life: friendship, affection, and love.
Although the imagery in this collection might seem suitable for all ages at first glance, please know there are stories and illustrations not suitable for children. Some of them include – what happens when a rock meets someone’s head, what’s kept in a cooler in the back seat of a car, and an obsession of swallowing one’s hand.
A Hand of Fingers is available in print and digital form.