________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011


Caramba and Henry.

Marie-Louise Gay.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2011.
40 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-55498-097-0.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4



Henry was learning to fly, but he wasnít very good at it yet.

One day Henry sneezed so hard that he shot up into the air

and almost landed on Carambaís pet cactus.

But he flapped his tiny arms,

sailed upside down out the window

and fell headfirst into the duck pond.

By the time Caramba fished him out,

Henry was covered in duck feathers

and screeching like a fire alarm.

Caramba, the clever little cat, first charmed readers in 2005 when he learned to swim. And everyone knows cats canít swim - they fly! In this sequel to the self-titled book Caramba, readers find that he now has a little brother, Henry, and has been charged with looking after him. But this poses a huge problem for Caramba because, unlike him, Henry does have the ability to fly. He just hasnít mastered it yet. Everything Caramba tries to keep Henry earthbound fails, and his one brilliant idea backfires drastically. Itís only through perseverance and love that Caramba salvages the situation and with rather sweet results.

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      As always in her more than 60 picture books, Marie-Louise Gayís unique style is composed of expressive drawings softly coloured with watercolour and other paints. She effortlessly portrays the volatile daily emotions of children, such as joy, frustration, anger and awe. Her illustrations are immediately recognizable and presage a stellar picture book experience. Her characters are always firmly grounded in childhood while her imagination soars. She excels in heart-warming tales of siblings who are discovering the natural world around them and interpreting it anew. Readers will undoubtedly know her Stella and Sam stories, both through Gayís picture books and now through starring in their own Disney TV show. But Canadian children will also be familiar with Caramba as the book that was chosen for the TD Grade One Book Giveaway Program last fall, which means that every Canadian child entering Grade 1 in September 2010, was given a copy of the book Caramba. This follow-up book will be very welcome in schools, libraries and homes as readers get to know Caramba and his world a little better. Hopefully, there will be more Caramba stories in the future.

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews, a retired librarian, lives in St. Johnís, NL.

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

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