CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005
In this sixth book about siblings Stella and Sam, big sister Stella demystifies the world above them. Her answers to Sam's questions are an imaginative mix of fact and fancy, with a big measure of calm reassurance thrown in.
Sam's concern that the sunset sky is on fire elicits Stella's response that the setting sun is wearing its red pajamas before being wrapped in a big starry blanket, and it prompts her to suggest a sleep-out under the stars with their own blankets. She brushes aside Sam's fearful questions about mosquitoes and giant moths and addresses his queries about the various nighttime croaks and calls with such comforting composure that Sam's own bravado is bolstered. Never stuck for an answer, Stella's creative responses are delivered with the same panache as her informative ones, and Sam cannot discern the difference. This could dissolve into sisterly superiority, but instead Gay paints Stella as resourceful and protective, with celestial control of her environment. The fact that there are never any parents present reinforces Stella's role; however, in this story, the influence of their Grandma is evident in the rather touching ending.
Marie-Louise Gay's signature watercolours are given full reign under the open sky. The story begins wordlessly, as Sam is happily flying a kite on the title page and, kite forgotten, gazes in awe at the setting sun on the copyright pages, and then dashes toward Stella on the first pages of text with his Chicken Little-like warning of the sky on fire. Stella, in uncharacteristic repose, is quietly sitting on a hill enjoying the solar show, with her red hair flaming against the glowing sky. Sam's dog Fred (unnamed in this story) follows him faithfully, and a small wild rabbit peaks out from behind concealing rocks. This rabbit is later mirrored by the toy rabbit Sam carts outside with his blanket, so that there is a rabbit for little readers to discover on almost every page.
This lovely book, short-listed for the Governor General's Award for illustration, will delight preschoolers and young children, regardless of whether they have the intrepid temperament of Stella or the cautious but curious one of Sam.
Alison Mews is the librarian at the Curriculum Materials Centre in the Faculty of Education at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NL.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.