________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 18. . . .May 1, 2009

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Jazlyn J's Key.

Renná Bruce. Illustrated by Robin Oakes.
Guelph, ON: Jazlyn J and Company Inc.(www.jazlynj.com), 2004.
36 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 978-1-894933-86-5.

Subject Heading:
Locks and keys-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Janice Foster.

*** /4

   
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Jazlyn J's Present Problem.

Renná Bruce. Illustrated by Robin Oakes.
Guelph, ON: Jazlyn J and Company Inc. (www.jazlynj.com), 2006.
36 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 978-1-894933-91-9.

Subject Headings:
Christmas stories.
Gifts-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Janice Foster.

*** /4

   

Jazlyn J's Key is another addition to the Jazlyn J alphabet themed books that are targeted for young children between the ages of 4 and 8 and which are intended to explore topics relevant to this age group. This story follows Jazlyn as she spends a day discovering the wide variety and uses of keys. In the process, she longs to have a key of her own. After Mr. Tibbs, the school principal, uses his key to open the school for Jazlyn and then her teacher, Mrs. Beggs, uses her key to open the craft cabinet, Jazlyn decides to try to make her own key. She discovers that a key must have a specific use. "Jazlyn wanted to make her very own key and went to work. When she was done, she realized that the key wasn't going to be very useful. It wouldn't open the door to the school, the office or a cabinet!"

     After school, when Jazlyn's mom picks her up, she notices that keys seem to be everywhere; to drive the car, a 'key to the city,' the garage, and even the mailbox. Jazlyn is delighted when her mother gives her her own key, a key to her own diary. The format of Jazlyn J's Key is similar to the other books in the series. The cartoon style depictions of the characters by illustrator Robin Oakes are large and colourful and expressive. The topic, keys, is one which is of some interest and relevance to young children. However, the key to a diary has a limited appeal and seems more appropriate to slightly older children. As in the other Jazlyn J books, the story ends with Jazlyn and her family sharing their favourite parts of the day. This theme of sharing a day's events is intended to help children reflect on the positive highlights, lessons learned and things to be valued, although Jazlyn's dad usually connects the best part of his day to food. The last page includes a question. In this book, the question, "What keys do you have in your family?" would elicit limited conversation whereas, in other titles, topics such as empathy, jealousy, money etc. would lead to a deeper discussion.

      Jazlyn J's Present Problem deals with the topic of gift giving. On Christmas Eve, as Jazlyn lies in bed, her favourite teddy bear beside her, she wonders what to give her baby brother. She recalls what favourite parts of the day her family had shared, but that didn't solve her problem. Then she remembers something her dad had once said. "The greatest gifts aren't always the ones on the shelves, they're the ones made or given freely from ourselves." Jazlyn decides to give her brother the thing that has made her happy, her teddy bear. On Christmas morning, she is surprised to find two bears under the tree, a new one for Jordie and her own, fixed up, for her. Santa includes a note for Jazlyn in which he says he was proud of her unselfish gift.

internal art      As in the other Jazlyn J books, Jazlyn J's Present Problem deals with a real life situation which young children experience. The criteria Jazlyn thinks about for a gift for her brother, "thoughtful, wonderful, special and kind," seem rather mature for a child. However, these criteria, together with interpreting her dad's statement of gifts given freely from ourselves, provide the opportunity for discussion between adult and child. There is a slight change in the format of Jazlyn J's Present Problem in that the text rhymes. This approach will have appeal to the young child. Again, the expressive cartoon styled characters, rendered by illustrator Robin Oakes, are large, colourful and appealing. The theme of sharing a day's events is cleverly embedded in Jazlyn's reflections. The inclusion of Santa's note of praise for Jazlyn's gift seems questionable as it appears as if Jazlyn is more than rewarded for her gift of kindness.

      Parents and early years educators will find these books useful to discuss ordinary topics as well as life lessons with young children. However, considering the diversity of today's family structures, the series may not address the subjects and experiences of young children in different situations.

Recommended.

Janice Foster is a recently retired teacher and teacher-librarian 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.
 

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