THE SPARROW'S SONG
Volume 15 Number 1
Ian Wallace won the Canadian Library Association's Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award in 1985 for Chin Chiang and the Dragon 's Dance ¹. His other books include The Sandwiched ² and The Very Last First Time ³.The Sparrow's Song is based on a story told to Wallace by his mother. Katie finds one dead sparrow, the victim of her brother's slingshot, and then another young sparrow close by. Katie takes the baby bird home and nurtures it, not allowing her brother, Charles, to come near. Eventually, Katie takes the bird to a mythical valley, dominated by Niagara Falls, to introduce it to nature. Brother and sister resolve their conflict and become children of the forest, with feathers in their hair and markings on their bodies. When it is time to let the bird go, Charles throws away his slingshot. Summer progresses and the children wonder about the sparrow. One day they hear it outside their window, catch up with it, and hold it briefly before it flies away again. A feeling of well being ends the story. There are too many themes and conflicts in this story for any one of them to be fully developed and satisfactorily resolved. Theme one involves a wild animal taken in by a child and eventually having to be let go. Theme two concerns a boy growing up and throwing away his plaything when he realizes the harm it can do. Theme three is forgiveness between brother and sister. Wallace tries to create conflict, but it is resolved too easily and with little drama. The tension necessary for a climax does not exist, resulting in a flat story. This is a true picture book in that text and pictures are both necessary for the story to be understood. The illustrations present more of the events of the summer, the characters of the children, and the importance of the setting than does the text. The pictures are detailed watercolour paintings with a predominance of green, blue, yellow, brown, and purple. These are not particularly warm or exciting colours and account for some of the flatness of the story. The drawings of the landscape and the bird are more pleasing than those of the children. Their faces are angular and surreal at times. Readers will react differently to this story and its illustrations, but Wallace fans and collectors of Canadian children's literature will want to acquire this title.
Brenda Watson, Dunsmuir J.S.S., Victoria, BC.
¹ Reviewed vol. Xlll/l January 1985, p.41.
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