CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009
Lilly and the Hullabaloo. (First Novels).
Brenda Bellingham. Illustrated by Clarke MacDonald.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2008.
64 pp., pbk. & hc., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-88780-752-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-88780-754-1 (hc.).
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Stacie Edgar.
At sharing time, Minna brings out her pictures. Her aunt sent them over the Internet and her dad printed them out. In the pictures the sun shines. People dance along the street in brightly coloured costumes and weird masks. Musicians play drums, pipes, trumpets, and triangles. The decorated floats are full of singing, dancing people having fun.
Suddenly I get an idea. 'We should have Junkanoo, too,' I say."
After Minna receives a message from her aunt and uncle who are vacationing in the Bahamas, Lilly and her friends get a fantastic idea---they are going to have their own warm weather celebration! Tired of the cold winter months that seem to drag on and inspired by the colourful pictures, Lilly and her friends decide to have their own Junkanoo---a musical street parade held on December 26th. Lilly, Minna and Theresa convince their student teacher to help them plan the celebration as a way to drive away their winter blahs.
Along with two boys in their class, Kendall and Heathrow, the girls and their student teacher, Ms. Giff, plan a way to make costumes out of recycled newspapers. By so doing, they aren't being wasteful, and, at the same time, they are saving the environment. The children make elaborate plans with music and costumes to mimic the Caribbean celebration. But Kendall points out that "you can't call it a Junkanoo. That name belongs to the Bahamas. I looked it up on the Internet. We should make up our own name."
In response to all the noise and commotion of the musical instruments and busy children, they change the name of the celebration from Junkanoo to Hullabaloo. The children get the whole school involved, and their Hullabaloo is a success.
Lilly and the Hullabaloo has an entertaining storyline that is fast-paced and quick to read. The format of the books in the Formac "First Novel" series has changed to a larger, "easier to read" size and now has "vibrant" covers. According to the publisher's website, these recent changes are better for their young readers. However, the old format of a smaller size and formulaic covers made them easier to hold and quick to identify. These changes may have been a choice that the publishers made on behalf of their readers, but now they appear like other early novels on the market.
This is the tenth installment of the Lilly books, which, according to the back cover, have all been Canadian Children's Book Centre "Our Choice" Selections. While not great literature full of imagery and figures of speech, like metaphors, these texts seem to fit with the intended audience. As the books are written with Lilly as the first-person narrator, we hear her thoughts and ideas about what is happening with the other characters. She often thinks about what is right and what is wrong in situations, such as when she is tempted to tease Kendall:
I almost laugh, but stop just in time. Kendall is the smallest boy in our room. It's not kind to tease people about their appearance. Kendall can't help being short.
The series is decidedly didactic and advertised as books based on the following themes: communication, confidence, emotions and feelings, friendship, gender roles, imagination, leadership, multiculturalism, music, performing arts, relationships, and teamwork. While themes and underlying messages exist in children's literature, the teaching points in these texts seem a little too direct, yet, perhaps targeted at young readers still developing comprehension skills or older, struggling readers.
The underlying message in Lilly and the Hullabaloo is---if you are nice to others, good things will happen to you. While the children are almost ready for the Hullabaloo, Kendall decides that he wants to be the king of the parade. Lilly does not make a fuss in response to Kendall's comment, even though the celebration was her idea in the beginning. She resists acting on her initial impulse to fight the notion of Kendall's being king and, in the end, she is graciously crowned Queen.
Author, Brenda Bellingham, who lives in Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton, AB, has written all ten Lilly books as well as a number of other children's texts. Illustrator Clarke MacDonald lives in Halifax, NS, which is also the home of the Formac Publishing Company. MacDonald supports the text with charcoal shaded black-and-white images scattered throughout the book.
Stacie Edgar teaches in the Winnipeg School Division in Winnipeg, MB.
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