________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


Mavis and Merna.

Ian Wallace.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2005.
40 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-647-0.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Val Nielsen.




Gully's was the busiest store in Fortune's Cove. It sold everything a family could need. Bicycles and birdbaths. Church hats and long johns. Cream of Wheat and canoes. Hammers and licorice whips.


Mavis is a young girl who loves everything about the store, from the tinkling bell above the front door to the store's mixed up smells of wicker and wool, rubber and oil, perfume and leather. She loves to stand in the aisles imagining owning all the wonderful things she sees around her.

     When Joe Gully, the store's owner dies, his widow, Mavis, holds a wake for him at the store with his gold-plated coffin laid out for three days in the main aisle between the boots and the brassieres. Merna worries about Mrs. Gully's being lonely, but her parents speculate that she is probably happily counting her millions. The little girl's literal interpretation of her parents' remarks prompts a midnight excursion to check things out at Mrs. Gully's house. Peering into the house from the branches of an oak tree, Merna is surprised to see that, instead of counting money, Mrs. Gully is playing Solitaire! When Merna crashes out of her perch on to the porch roof, Mrs. Gully invites her into her turret room. Seven Double Solitaire games later, the two are fast friends. Throughout the months that follow, Mavis and Merna find that they are kindred spirits. They laugh together, play silly games and cruise the countryside in Mrs. Gully's car smoking licorice cigars and sipping root beer. Their friendship lasts through three decades right up to the point where Mavis decides she must go back to her long abandoned store. Together, the friends come up with a wonderfully original idea for a closing out sale, one that provides a truly satisfying ending to Mavis and Merna.

internal art     Ian Wallace, one of Canada's best known and loved author/illustrators, has either won or been nominated for a truly amazing list of picture book awards. Among the many honours he has won are the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award and the Mr. Christie award for illustration (for The Name of the Tree, published in 1990) and the Amelia Francis Howard Gibbon Award (for Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance published in 1985).

     Wallace's tale of intergenerational friendship between two appealing and completely believable characters is both funny and touching. The story of their relationship is saved from sentimentality by the author's wry sense of humour and his wonderfully evocative illustrations of the book's small town maritime setting.

     Elementary librarians will want to make space on their shelves for Mavis and Merna, the latest in a long list of fine picture books by Ian Wallace.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.