CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008
A young boy, living with his mother in a Victoria, BC, apartment building once owned by artist Emily Carr, discovers in its attic a menagerie of animals linked to ones that Carr once lived with. He is encouraged by the landlord to draw the animals, and, on the day he moves out, discovers in the attic a drawing of himself and the animals instead.
A story with enormous potential to evoke the artistic awakening of a young boy and to connect it to Canada’s most fascinating artist, this book, reissued with new illustrations, seems to just miss that mark. Instead, it buries the theme in a story filled with unanswered questions that leave the reader confused. The dialogue, especially of the landlord Mr. Tweedie, is unnatural, and his “mysterious” actions are instead baffling.
The illustrations, rendered in pencil and watercolour, do convey a sense of the bizarre nature of an attic filled with exotic animals, but struggle to portray the human warmth. Tousle-haired, pouty Paul is cute, but his mother and Mr. Tweedie seem devoid of expression.
Still, this is a story that may have the power to evoke artistic curiosity, just not as well as Carr-themed work by the likes of Susan Vande Griek, Nicolas Debon, and Jo-Ellen Bogart, to name a few.
Note: neither the original illustrations nor the original French text were available for comparison.
Recommended with reservations.
Todd Kyle is a former President of the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians who is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.
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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.