CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009
Anne Villeneuve won the 2000 Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration in a French language children’s book for her work in L’echarpe rouge. Tundra Books are now releasing the book in English as The Red Scarf. The book is almost wordless in any case, so the burden of responsibility for conveying the story is almost exclusively placed upon the artwork. Villeneuve’s artwork fits the bill and conveys a humorous, dramatic story that will appeal to young children and their parents.
In The Red Scarf, what seems likely to be another ordinary day turns into an extraordinary adventure. The conscientious taxi driver, Turpin, unwittingly finds himself at the centre of several circus acts. After a costumer leaves a red scarf in the taxi cab, Turpin stumbles into Big Top circus performances including a high wire act and lion taming.
Other than the words that appear on the first two pages, the only other words in the book are a few words of environmental print contained within the illustrations. The pencil and crayon illustrations become increasingly vibrant and colourful as the story unfolds and the day becomes less and less gray and dreary. The suggestion for young readers is that, no matter how predictable life might seem to be, one never knows what excitement lays in wait. The swirling colours add movement and energy to the story as Turpin chases after the customer who left behind the scarf. While the illustrations are not particularly detailed, we see enough in Turpin’s facial expressions to get a good sense of his feelings as he moves through moments of contentment, uncertainty, apprehension, fear and—having overcome his fear—satisfaction and pride.
The humorous, unexpected book ending will free the imagination of children and provide opportunities for enjoyable and educational discussions with parents and other readers. This fun book will appeal to many readers of many ages, but it is ideally suited to preschool and early elementary grades.
Gregory Bryan teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.