________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009


The Undesirables.

Paul Brière. Illustrated by Philippe Béha.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-894965-88-0.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


First, they identified the Archprickilys and the Babbilylips. These subjects were unquestionably undesirables!

They continued with the Crumpitycrocs, the Dododungs and the Eggilydice. Certainly these subjects, too, were intolerable!

The imaginative creativity demonstrated by Paule Brière and Philippe Béha in Simply Read Books' latest picture book is certainly entertaining. The Undesirables is a story of treason that begins with a king and queen issuing the order to "Lock up all the undesirables!" In this highly imaginative alphabet book, the royal majesties make a list of those that should be imprisoned, proceeding through the alphabet until the Granvilan discovers, although the dungeon is not big enough to house all of those identified for imprisonment, that he, too, is about to be jailed.

internal art

     Although veiled, at the heart of The Undesirables is a story stressing the need for tolerance and the celebration of differences. These are important messages for all children. Brière and Béha convey this message in a whimsical manner that will appeal to children. First published in 2006 as Les Indésirables, the English translation will likely also appeal to early years teachers looking to encourage students to explore language in creative and fun ways, including the use of invented language.

     The imaginative and energetic text is matched by the bright illustrations. Béha's mixed media collage images are busy, and, I confess, I did not personally find them appealing, but I find the artwork intriguing nonetheless. Béha's daring use of colour and form is suggestive of the work of Dali.

     The royal couple who appear on the cover image have different noses and different hair to the king and queen who appear inside the book. I find this difference perplexing. This seems to be an error, although it is possible that I am merely missing the artist's intent with the different cover depiction.

     Readers with an interest in work that is high in energy and in interpretive possibilities will have fun exploring The Undesirables. This book represents a unique addition to the voluminous collection of alphabet books for children. In a genre that seems sometimes to have been done to death, I appreciate the creativity and originality of The Undesirables.


Gregory Bryan teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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