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The Heart Never Forgets

Illustrated by Hayden Goodman
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About The Book

A young girl pays tribute to the memory of her grandfather during a West African masquerade festival in this moving, lushly illustrated picture book.

The talking drums thump a sweet beat…
The masquerade has begun.

As villagers gather to hear masked musicians beating drums, savor fried plantains, and watch the joyful dancers, a young girl joins the celebration with her family. But this year, everything feels different; it’s the first masquerade without Grandpa.

Each member of the family carries something that honors Grandpa—his clanking beads, soft velvet hat, and carved walking stick. But the young girl doesn’t have any of Grandpa’s items. Instead, she brings with her a special memory shared only between the two of them. Will she be able to share it with the world?

About The Author

Photograph (c) Ana Ot

Ana Ot grew up reading, which led to her love for writing. When she’s not doing either, she’s dreaming up new stories filled with heart and whimsy. Ana enjoys traveling and discovering special books in quirky bookstores. The Heart Never Forgets is her first picture book.

About The Illustrator

Photograph (c) Hayden Goodman

Hayden Goodman is an African American painter, illustrator, and character artist born and raised in western Massachusetts. Now based in Connecticut, she works primarily in gouache to paint witches, fairies, goblins, and other mysterious creatures from mythology and folklore. Visit her at

Why We Love It

“This story portrays a beautiful blend of culture, family, celebration, and loss. Though it is a significant tradition in West African cultures, there are not many picture books about Masquerades, and this book fills that need. Ana Ot’s writing is effortlessly engaging and pairs perfectly with Hayden Goodman’s stunning, vibrant paintings, creating a picture book that is both approachable and a work of art.”

—Julia M., Editor, on The Heart Never Forgets

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 16, 2024)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665913058
  • Ages: 4 - 8

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Raves and Reviews

*"Via painterly illustrations of dancers in traditional West African outfits and masquerade performers in patterned costumes, Goodman expresses liveliness and warmth, carrying the day—and story—forward to a profound and poetic conclusion. In this tenderly written debut, Ot deftly conveys that love is at the core of the grieving process, and that memories and celebration of loved ones keep them near when they have gone."

– Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW, 2/5/2024

“The simple, poetic language guides readers through this heartfelt story of grief and love. The vividly textured illustrations are captivating. A wonderful read-aloud, this tale will especially resonate with those dealing with loss. A stirring reminder of loss that balances joy with sadness."

– Kirkus Reviews, 4/1/24

"Goodman sets warm colors against sweeping ochre backgrounds; detailed clothing patterns and lively compositions convey the spirit of this celebration. Debut picture-book author Ot offers a note to expand on the meaning and significance of the rich and varied tradition of masquerades in West Africa. A compelling story showing a sorrowing child’s path to her own kind of grace through a beloved tradition of remembrance."

– Booklist, 4/15/24

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