________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 21. . . .June 12, 2009.


Lom and the Gnatters.

Kurusa. Illustrated by Isabel Ferrer. Translated by Elisa Amado.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2009.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-944-3.

Subject Headings:
Lions-Juvenile fiction.
Gnats-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 2-7.

Review by Myra Junyk.


Reviewed from f&g’s.




Lom’s mane was full of knots. Large knots and little knots, fat knots and thin knots. And in the knots, the Gnatters had begun to build their nests.

“Oh! Oh! It itches!” cried Lom.

“The Gnatters will leave if I comb your mane,” said the Soldier Bird. “Shall I?”

internal artLom is a lion with a problem. His hair itches unbearably. He has not combed it in ages, and the Gnatters have taken up residence in his beautiful mane! Soldier Bird tries to help Lom by combing his hair, but there are just too many knots. He has to cut his great red mane. Very upset by his new prickly hair which looks like a porcupine, Lom thinks everyone is laughing at him until he meets a new friend – the baby porcupine – who helps him learn a valuable lesson about combing his hair.

     Kurusa, the author of this picture book, wants to teach very young readers a lesson about combing their hair. The book is dedicated to, “My Sand Flea, who still won’t let me brush her hair.” Kurusa was born in Caracas but studied at McGill University in Montreal. She now lives in Caracas. The award-winning illustrator, Isabel Ferrer, lives in Barcelona. Together, the two have created an amusing tale about the activity of hair combing which can be a struggle for young children. In 2008, this picture book was published in Spanish in Venezuela.

     Through luminous and exciting illustrations, the African environment is shown in soft yellow, green, grey and brown tones. In contrast, Lom’s very red mane almost glows on the page. Only two other animals have touches of red - Soldier Bird, who helps Lom to finally solve his problem, and baby porcupine. This choice of colour emphasizes their importance in the story. Many other African animals also populate the pages of this book. However, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this picture book is something that most readers would not notice at first glance. Throughout the story, the baby porcupine is seen in the background. He is there when Soldier Bird first speaks to Lom, and he continues to appear throughout the story until Lom finally notices him. It is Lom’s love for the tiny porcupine that finally solves his problem! Love conquers all!

     The text of this picture book is also well suited for young readers. The vocabulary is simple and easy to understand. However, the title of this book, which includes the unusual word “Gnatters” in it, may need some explanation. The author and illustrator do a great job showing readers exactly what the Gnatters are. Much of the text is written in dialogue. When Lom is speaking, his words often appear in larger bold print reflecting his large size and his lion status as “King of the Jungle.”

     This picture book has great potential as a read aloud for young children. The various voices will intrigue young readers. Parents and teachers should make sure to read with a lot of emotion to emphasize the various characters. In a classroom setting, this picture book could also be a great tool for shared reading. Students could take the roles of various animals in this picture book. The use of quotations and bold print provides great teaching moments for features of text. In addition, students could be asked to dramatize the story. They could also discuss what lesson they have learned from Lom’s experiences. They could also choose to write about important questions such as, “What makes you happy?” “Why are friends important?” “Why is it important to keep well groomed?”

Highly Recommended.

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.

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

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