Share The Sky|
by Ting-Xing Ye
My Four Lions
by Bernice Gold
by Sharon Jenninngs,
Tall In The Saddle
by Anne Carter
Me And Mr. Mah
by Andrea Spalding
Post Your Opinion
by Mary Anne Cree
Families come in all shapes and sizes. This new crop of picture books shows children in a variety of family settings, dealing—sometimes practically, other times imaginatively—with the ups and downs of daily life.
In Bye-Bye Pie, when Joey and Alfie’s grandmother tells them she is going to Greenland for a year, the boys kick into high gear, planning a party and making going-away gifts. Joey draws a self-portrait, makes a hand print, and presses flowers. Alfie, being considerably younger, makes a valiant attempt to do the same with less satisfying results. Joey and his mother make grandma’s favourite, chocolate fudge pecan pie. At the party, the boys are about to bring the two pies into the dining room when they slide off the tray and crash into a horrible mess. Undaunted, the boys scoop up the pies, mix them into a bowl, add lots of whip cream, and voilá—bye-bye pie!
This is a delightful book, full of humour in both the text and illustrations, with a funny and clever resolution. The pictures paint a loving and slightly chaotic home. Joey’s sidelong glances show his frustration with his baby brother; but in the end, they work together to a satisfying conclusion. The author has even included the recipe, with directions to “Let the pie go splat in a mixing bowl”!
A very different family is portrayed in Me and Mr. Mah. Ian’s parents have separated, and he and his mother have moved from their prairie farm to the city. Ian’s elderly Chinese neighbour, Mr. Mah, shares his love of gardening with Ian and the two become fast friends. Then Ian and his mother move to a nicer house by the ocean and Mr. Mah is forgotten—until Ian chances upon his special black lacquer box in a second-hand store.
This team of author/illustrator created Sarah May and the New Red Dress. Once again, the story centres on a child who is struggling with forces beyond his control and is helped along the way. This is a tough story and Wilson’s artwork provides a good balance to the text. She doesn’t flinch from showing the loneliness of Mr. Mah, who has lost his wife and is now living in an old-age home, or Ian, who has lost his father. But she concentrates on the love that grows within their relationship and the happy times they spend together.
The author of Share the Sky has drawn on her Asian heritage for her two previous stories, Three Monks, No Water and Weighing the Elephant. In her latest book, she moves the setting to a real village in modern-day China where young Fei-fei lives with her grandfather.
Fei-fei loves kites and, although she is too young to fly one, she watches while the villagers fly them. Her parents are in Canada and they have sent for her to join them. Her grandfather does not believe that they can share the same sky with people who are so far away and so different. In Canada, Fei-fei discovers a kite hanging in her classroom at school. Her teacher asks her to show the others how to make them. In the final picture, Fei-fei is flying her own kite along with her family and new friends who are truly sharing the same sky with her village in China.
The delicate watercolours show the happy world of a close and loving family. The illustrator breaks from her realistic style in one lovely picture of Fei-fei dreaming that she is a kite flying away from her village. Ting-xing Ye has told a simple and thoughtful story of confronting the unknown and finding a common sky, big enough for all, wherever you are.
My Four Lions begins with a small boy trudging home from school in the deep snow, but quickly plunges us into his fantasy world of the hot African jungle. On the left-hand side of each page, we see his simple apartment where he plays by himself with his paper lion collection. On the right side, the lions come to life, guarding his jungle campsite.
The text is very spare. The watercolour illustrations depict lions that are fierce but kindly, much like the beasts in Where the Wild Things Are. These lions are friends, after all, and enjoy sitting around the campfire, telling stories, and eating pizza just as any friend would. There is a certain poignancy to the last picture in which mum arrives home with a pizza for their supper.
In this comforting book, the young boy escapes the limits of his small and somewhat lonely world through his vivid imagination.
Tall in the Saddle is another take on the child confronting his reality through fantasy. A boy and his father play cowboys early one morning. The boy then follows his father to work—the town street becoming the Wild West where both father and son find themselves riding bucking horses. Their adventure takes them on a cow round-up and a dangerous pursuit of nasty bandits before they slowly find their way back home. It’s “all in a day’s work”, says dad. And as he approaches the house, the story effortlessly shifts back to the real world.
This is an insightful story made even more powerful by David McPhail’s outstanding illustrations. McPhail is an accomplished artist whose work always moulds itself to the style and tone of the story. Here, his pictures are bold and humourous; big drawings spill out of the page, like the child’s wild imagination. In some scenes, the child’s face is pensive; his imagination is at work in creating this world.
Anne Carter’s book gracefully blends story and picture into a tale that is true to the inner life of the child. •
Mary Anne Cree is a librarian with the Toronto Public Library and a partner in MaryContrary Associates.