CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2011
Australian author-illustrator Stephen Michael King attempts to capture the joys of friendship in his latest offering, You. There is no overt story here as the text is a series of pronouncements about the world we live in issued by a rabbit to a little brown bird:
While the gentle watercolours and the poetic prose are undeniably sweet, the book lacks a consistent tone. In the first few pages, rabbit is painting a birdhouse for his feathered friend while the text discusses the “colours” of the world. This is a promising beginning, seemingly setting the stage for an intimate, private world of friendship shared between two forest friends. But subsequent illustrations of a futuristic, alien city (representing the world’s “big things”) and odd, space-age contraptions resting beside a puzzled-looking grey dog (representing “all sorts of things”) seem completely out of place and fail to illustrate a meaningful bond of friendship between the two animals.
A smattering of other animal characters are randomly placed throughout the book to illustrate more poetic concepts like “the world is a musical place.” Youngsters would be more likely to grasp the meaning of such abstract language if there was a consistency of presentation – that is, if the rabbit and bird remained at the centre of the action as they are on the book’s cover and the first establishing pages.
Rather than feeling like an intimate look at the gentle friendship between two animals, You ultimately reads like a series of disjointed, albeit very charming, greeting cards. While this is neither the best choice for a group read-aloud nor a particularly perceptive portrayal of friendship, the text is acceptably expressive and loving enough for sharing between a caregiver and child. An additional purchase.
Recommended with reservations.
Shannon Ozirny, the Acting Head Youth Services Librarian at the Port Moody Public Library, has a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature.
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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.