________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 4 . . . . September 24, 2010


Willow's Whispers.

Lana Button. Illustrated by Tania Howells.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-280-3.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney

*** /4


"Shyness in children can take many forms. For Willow, it is the inability to speak above a whisper, even when she wants to. At every encounter in what appears to be a kindergarten classroom, Willow cannot make her real wishes understood.

At playtime, when Willow gathered the dollhouse family for a picnic and Kristabelle snatched away the baby, Willow whispered, I'm playing with her.

Excuse me? sneered Kristabelle.

I'm playing with her, Willow repeated.

But Kristabelle just skipped away.

Willow said nothing. She had the picnic anyway, even though the dolls had lost their appetite.

It is hard to replicate the sense imparted by this exchange in ordinary typeface because the book's designer has most effectively put all of Willow's too-quiet rejoinders in a much smaller font than the descriptive passages or the louder speeches of other characters. But the fact that the dolls had lost their appetite tells much about the little girl's feelings about being ignored.

     internal artThe solution to Willow's problem is not the reassurance of her father, although he does seem like a very understanding dad. No, she has the inspiration to make a magic microphone out of a paper tube and markers and glitter. The gadget allows her to amplify her voice when she looking for a place at the art table, telling which juice she prefers and even speaking up for herself when Kristabelle comes around. When the magic microphone is crushed, Willow finds that her own big voice is now able to “twist and turn and wiggle its way out and tell everyone It's my turn!

     Tania Howells illustrates her second book here, the other being Berkeley's Barn Owl Dance by Tera Johnson, also from Kids Can. Her style uses strong black outline and clear colours. There is more white space than background in the pictures, but there is enough detail for us to know when we are in the classroom, the school hallway or Willow's room. Willow's Whispers is Lana Button's picture book debut. The illustrations and the childlike way Willow's situation is resolved make an engaging whole, in a book that would be a success in a storytime about feelings or for a group discussion about problem-solving in a primary classroom.


Ellen Heaney is Head, Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

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