How Smudge Came.
Nan Gregory. Illustrated by Ron Lightburn.
Kindergarten - grade 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Cindy puts the puppy on Jan's bed.
"Oh my, oh my. A puppy."
"Can you see him?"
"Not really. Just a smudge in the dark." Cindy smiles her slow smile.
"Same when I first saw him. Smudge-in-the-dark."
Nan Gregory has received much acclaim for her children's story, How Smudge Came. It has won both the Mr. Christie's Book Award for Best Canadian Children's Book and a B.C. Book Prize. It has also been honoured as an "Our Choice" selection of the Canadian Children's Book Centre and was placed on the American Bookseller's Pick of the Lists.
The protaganist, Cindy, who appears to have Down's Syndrome, lives in a group home and works as a cleaner in a hospice. One day she finds a puppy and attempts to keep him, secretly. She hides him in her room and takes him to work with her where he is named Smudge by one of the residents. Her secret is discovered, and Smudge is whisked away to the S.P.C.A. by the powers-that-be at the group home. The joy and love of life that a small creature like a puppy can inspire are celebrated against the darker backdrop of early death (the hospice residents) and lack of freedom that living with a mental disability can entail (Cindy's group-home placement). The touching and satisfying resolution is sure to pull some heartstrings.
Children will relate to Cindy's near universal desire for a puppy. Gregory's prose is simple and straightforward. Writing in the present tense, she employs bitten-off sentences that are strangely effective and almost poetic - "Up goes the puppy, tucked into her bag. Home goes Cindy." The story is deceptively simple, really, because Cindy's home and work life, together with her love for Smudge, add up to a full world view.
Governor General Award winner Rob Lightburn's illustrations are beautifully done in coloured pencil on paper. The visual style is cinematic with some illustrations drawn from a close-up perspective and others in long-shot or from overhead angles. The images are soft-focused, shaded in rich but subtle, muted colours over textured backgrounds, an approach which creates a kind of pointillistic effect. Their pale light illuminates this heartfelt tale.
Leslie Millar is a mother and substitute teacher..
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - MAY 23, 1997.
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