CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007
One night, Aril’s well-worn teddy bear is tumbled out of her attic window by the wind. Aided by a friendly sparrow, Aril journeys to retrieve her friend from three decidedly beastly bears. All ends well. Aril tames her fears, and the now-civilized bears, sparrow, Aril and teddy trek home for tea and bedtime.
Maguire is obviously a gifted artist. The minimal, alliterative storyline is nicely presented with font and colour changes, but it serves primarily as a vehicle for the wonderful dark line drawings that evoke Sendak. These are very active images that advance the narrative in the absence of text. Aril in her bright pink dress stands out in the muted tones of the landscape, and there are lots of details to find in the evocative manga-inspired illustrations: both the sparrow and Aril tiptoe toward the bear’s cave; Aril’s hair droops when the bears are bullying her and stands straight up when she calls them on their bullying; the bears are suitably pathetic in their remorse. I particularly like that the bear’s toenails hang over the edge of the image frame.
It is hard to determine the age group this book targets. Although A Growling Place is marketed as a bed-time book for young children, it lacks narrative force, and the text is perhaps too abstract for this age group. Although this imaginary journey shows Aril facing her fears of loss and ‘bear terrors,’ the ending does not resolve the conflict in a truly satisfying manner.
Recommended with reservations.
Catherine Howett, a recent graduate of the MLIS program at the University of British Columbia, is a Resource Centre consultant. Now that she is gainfully employed, she ‘bearly’ has any time to read fiction.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.