CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 41 . . . . June 24, 2011
Renata Liwska's newest offering celebrates the power of imagination. Like the classic picture book Rosie's Walk, Red Wagon tells two completely different stories, one with the text of the book, and another through the illustrations. The straightforward text features Lucy, a little fox who wants to play with her new red wagon. When Lucy's mother sends her on an errand to the market instead, Lucy is a little disappointed. Nevertheless, she dutifully carries out the task.
In contrast, the soft pastel illustrations show Lucy and her friends using their creativity to turn her chore into an adventure. While the text describes a rain storm that is "really coming down" on the road to the market, the accompanying two-page spread depicts Lucy's wagon as a ship being tossed on the waves of a choppy grey ocean. In other illustrations, the wagon is transformed into a chuck wagon, a car in a circus caravan, a train, a rocket, and a construction vehicle.
Liwska uses light pencil strokes beneath the soft washes of colour to create a cast of animal characters that appear cuddly and sweet, almost like stuffed animals. However, the endearing characters never cross the line into saccharine sweetness – this book will appeal to boys as well as girls.
A broad range of children will also enjoy the humour in Red Wagon. For instance, when Lucy's mother tells her to use her new wagon to go to the market, Lucy notes suspiciously, "That sounded like a chore." This vigilance against errands will be familiar to any preschooler. In another spread, a hedgehog munches on one apple while he carries two more on his head, speared on his spines. This quiet humour comes into play again when Lucy finally returns from her day of adventure at the end of the book. The text declares her "finally free to play with her wagon" now that her "chore" is complete. Of course, Lucy has been playing all day, and is exhausted – the accompanying illustration shows her curled up and sleeping in her new wagon.
Katie Edwards is a Customer Service Manager with Calgary Public Library.
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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.