________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2011.


Kazaak! (A Tell-Me-More! Storybook).

Sean Cassidy.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010.
32pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-117-0.

Subject Headings:
Porcupines-Juvenile fiction.
Bears-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.

Review by Danya David.





"Quills are the best," says Rupert.

"And they keep us porcupines safe."

"Teeth and claws can keep us safe," says Spike.

"Lots of animals have teeth and claws, but quills can do much more. Watch."

Spike, the baby porcupine, is not the least impressed with the sharp protrusions covering his little body. They prick, get in the way, and overwhelm him. But Rupert, Spike’s best friend and self-appointed quill mentor, assures him that being quill-covered is actually a blessing.

     While many animals have teeth and claws, quills are another ballpark, Rupert explains. Beyond the edgy look, quills also equip their kind for camouflage, spearing juicy berries, and scaring away predators.

     One such predator in the story is Bear. Rupert demonstrates a “CHIK-chik” for Spike- the quill-shake tactic that serves to frighten predators with an unmistakable “don’t mess with me” sound. “Go away,” Rupert warns Bear, “or I will KAZAAK you.”

     Bear still dares to confront though, thinking he can gobble at least one of the little prickly animals for lunch, especially since Rupert no longer looked so intimidating now that most of his quills had fallen earlier during his performances for Spike.

     internal artThis is the point when little Spike boldly pipes in to clarify that, although his older friend may appear soft on the outside, he, in fact, has loads more quills waiting to pop out from the inside. “Bears have fur,” Spike explains, “But Rupert is a porcupine. What do you think is inside HIM waiting to grow out?”

     KAZAAK! is playful and teaches the importance of embracing ones unique gifts, even if they seem troublesome and odd at the start. Spike and Rupert’s relationship also encourages wholesome friendship values, like trust, loyalty, and play. The story is fun and light but also substantial in its messages of empowerment through appreciating friendships as well as one’s inherent qualities.

     Cassidy’s onomatopoeic writing matches well with his quirky and energetic illustrations. Both the art and the writing lend to a story that is full of fun and movement. The last few pages of the book feature nonfiction information about porcupines, along with a very simple (yet effective!) art lesson on how to draw a porcupine. A delightful read.

Highly Recommended.

Danya David is a graduate of University of British Columbia’s Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program.

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

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