So much of our society is based around the idea of the nuclear family. The archetype of the working father, the stay-at-home mother and the young children has become deeply ingrained in our culture, from family sitcoms on television to children playing house on the playground.
But more and more, that concept of the nuclear family is being challenged. As families of different structures become more visible, children are learning to change their preconceived notions of what it means to be a family. In her book The Fixer and the Garage Door: Charlie, Uzoma R. Ezekwudo confronts a complicated topic and transforms it into a gentle story about the strength of a family’s love.
BEING THE MAN OF THE HOUSE
In his introduction to the story, our main character Charlie tells us that he considers himself the man of his house; and in Charlie’s words, “everyone knows the man of the house needs tools to FIX things.”
Charlie wasn’t always the man of the house, but since his father’s passing, he and his mother have been on their own. In his own words, he feels compelled to step up and help out so that he “could be the man of the house that Mom needed.”
So when his Uncle Jay buys him a power screwdriver for his birthday, Charlie is thrilled. Finally, he can get to work and start his repairs! He fixes the handle on a cabinet, then a broken fencepost, then the wonky lock on the backyard gate. Charlie’s feeling so accomplished that when his mom mentions a hole in the garage door, he doesn’t hesitate to get started on the next repair.
But it turns out that repairing a garage door is a lot harder than Charlie thought — and it seems that sometimes there are some projects that you can’t tackle on your own.
A SERIOUS TOPIC HANDLED WITH CARE
In The Fixer and the Garage Door, Ezekwudo tells a compelling story that celebrates the love between mother and son. Her heartfelt writing, combined with Marina Jovic’s vivid illustrations, draws the reader into Charlie’s world. The characters’ emotions and motivations are authentic and reminiscent of real-life families going through a similar loss.
Though the book is for children ages 5 and up, Ezekwudo also doesn’t shy away from serious topics. Instead, she pares the subject down into a storyline that young children can handle without glossing over the conversation about loss.
While the story doesn’t focus mainly on the family’s bereavement, it does serve as a motivation for the story. Ezekwudo makes it clear that Charlie feels a need to fill the space in his family left by his father’s death. But when fixing the garage door doesn’t go to plan, Charlie’s mother assures him that he doesn’t need to take on such a mature role. He can enjoy his childhood, knowing that she and Uncle Jay will be there to step in and handle the big projects in life.
Ultimately, The Fixer and the Garage Door is a story about the resilience of a family, and how grief can’t diminish the love that they share. It reminds young readers that they don’t have to rush to take on the responsibilities of adults — and of course, to leave the garage door repairs to the professionals.
Watch a music video based on this book below.