CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 8. . . October 27, 2017
Do opposites really attract? We often hear about people finding love with completely opposite personality-types as well as friends who are the flip side of each other, so perhaps there is truth in this popular trope.
So it is with Yak and Dove, two friends who can’t understand why they are friends since they are so physically and temperamentally different. When they squabble over nothing, Yak’s feelings are so hurt he looks for another friend in this three “chapter” picture book (as in life, there are chapters). Through the intervention of other caring friends, Yak discovers their bond can’t be broken; their friendship and hearts are healed. Appropriately, neither animal’s gender is indicated. It’s all about friendship in whatever form it takes.
Yak and Dove is a story of love, a story of relationships, curious and conventional. Maclear injects a lot of humour into the text. Yak decides to plant a quiet garden to get away from the noise of the world, but Dove keeps interrupting the silence with ringing phones and beeping technology. Dove decides to help out by masquerading as a horticulturist; Yak plays along because gardens (and gardeners) need love and attention, not isolation.
Esmé Shapiro’s quiet, but playful, illustrations are a delightful complement to the text. On the copyright page, Shapiro advises that technically they were accomplished with watercolours, gouache and coloured pencils, but they could not have been completed without help from a few bagels, bowls of borscht and marmalade toast - obviously the right recipe to represent the nuances and “je ne sais quoi” of a friendship where one friend has only to look at the other to communicate. Her choice of muted greens, browns are well-suited to the soft pinks, oranges and yellows. She draws her animal characters realistically but with quaint anthropomorphisms. Yak’s slight smile suggests great joy, just as his open mouth and display of tiny teeth indicate his frustration when he is auditioning for a new friend. Small human touches, such as Weasel’s party hat and ballet outfit, take the reader deeper into the community life of the animals. The variation between full-page paintings to multiple smaller illustrations on a white background prompt further examination and generate thought.
Parents and teachers will be able to talk to children about how friendship can transcend size, personality types, interests, gender, colour, ethnicity and any other difference imaginable. They can emphasize how enriching it is to find friends who are alike and friends who are different.
Maclear, who lives in Toronto, writes for both adults and children, tackling topics from unique perspectives. Her children’s books include the moving Virginia Wolf, which delves into the issue of depression from a child’s point of view, and The Liszts, which finds humour breaking through routine. Yak and Dove can now be added to her list of meaningful titles.
Harriet Zaidman is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB. While she neither likes nor plays chess, her husband pushes pawns across the board at every waking moment, proving that over 40 years together, opposites still attract.
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