________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover Little Wen: "I Want to See About That."

Ruowen Wang. Illustrated by Wei Xu.
Toronto, ON: Kevin & Robin Books, 2008.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.99 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897458-12-9 (pbk.). ISBN 978-1-897458-09-9 (hc.).

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Myra Junyk.

** /4


Mama put on her stern face. "Mothers know everything. Trust me. Now, no more questions!"

"All right no more questions… But do mothers really know everything?" Oops, another question. Little Wen quickly covered her mouth and made a face.

"Just believe what I say, or your questioning will bring us bad luck. If not all my chicks turn out to be egg-laying hens, it could be our fault entirely."

"Oh, really?" Little Wen was fascinated. "I want to see about that."

Little Wen moves to the countryside as she is starting Grade One. Since country life is new to her, she eagerly explores her surroundings. Lots of things are different here! Houses are made of mud and straw. There are many animals - piglets, roosters and chicks. When her mother decides to raise her own chicks, Wen has lots of questions. Her new friend and neighbour, Mei, is also a mystery to Little Wen because Mei's mother has shaved Mei's head to make her hair grow in faster and healthier. After learning about Mei, Little Wen decides to experiment with her mother's new chicks to see if they, too, can have longer hair by her cutting all the down off their heads. Will Little Wen ever stop experimenting and asking, "I want to see about that?"

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     Little Wen is a very curious child who finds herself in a new environment which she wants to explore fully. As an only child, she is often left to her own devices. This allows her to try out her assumptions by doing things like cutting off all the down on the chick's heads. Her mother is shocked by her behaviour and manages to stop her before she cuts all of the hair off the tomcat's head! Little Wen's curiosity about everyday events will surely be familiar to young readers.

     Little Wen's impetuous actions lead to several improbable events in this picture book. Why is she left alone to experiment with the animals? Why does she seem to act in isolation? We see her with her mother on occasion – but never with her father. Her friend Mei appears briefly to set up the problem of the hair – but then disappears for most of the book – only to appear again with a full head of hair. The vocabulary of this picture book could also be a challenge for very young readers. Words such as "fertilizer" "courtyard" and "earthquake" could be problematic since the meanings of these words are not obvious through the context of the language or the illustrations.

     The watercolour illustrations provide useful information for readers. Most of the illustrations portray Little Wen with one or two other individuals. They help readers to understand her character. Her boredom is evident as she explores the puddles on the mud floor of their new home. Her excitement is evident when she meets her new friend Mei and discovers that she is now bald! But most of all, readers can see Little Wen's mischievous nature when she tells them, "I want to see about that." As she is cutting off the down from the heads of the chicks, her facial expressions reveal her intense concentration on her task.

     This interesting picture book explores the world of curiosity and imagination. Young children need to explore their worlds – in a safe way. They need to be able to say "I want to see about that" in order to understand their world.


Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.

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