CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011
Wishing on a star or a birthday candle or a stone, for that matter, is one of life’s small pleasures. Wishes contain a lot of potential… sometimes they even come true. Ella May learns this the hard way. Wishes, as it turns out in Ella May and the Wishing Stone, are not worth much without people to share the experience with.
The reader meets Ella May as she is sitting on her porch, admiring the magic wishing stone she’s discovered at the beach and pondering what to wish for first. Ella May feels rather entitled as though clearly the stone chose her. When her friends come by, Ella becomes greedy with her wishes and decides she’d rather like to keep this special stone to herself. In doing so, she willingly alienates her friends. Ella May makes a mistake, as we all do, and through it she ends up learning quite a lot about herself and also about wishes. Refreshingly, these lessons are not delivered in a didactic or moralistic tone but emerge serendipitously, rather like appearance of the stone, itself.
Cary Fagan is an award-winning children’s author and is no stranger to picture books. His writing style is simple and clear. The quality of its tone pulls the reader’s attention easily along. Fagan’s distinct style is found in the simple details: “Ella played hopscotch until dinnertime, and then after dinner too…” He provides the perfect amount of imaginative detail for the listener to run away with it. “They all started looking for their own wishing stones. They looked in the front garden. They looked in the back gardens. They looked under trees and behind garbage cans.”
This picture book feels like an extended summer, with warm images and an almost lyrical quality to the text. The merging of text and illustration is seamless; the two play off each other successfully. The usually very recognizable artistic style of Genevieve Côté is somewhat muted here. Her style is still distinctive, but it is muted, because this picturebook exists as a world of its own. She uses a soft line and makes use of a lot of white space. It is Côté’s wash of warm yellow across most of the pages of Ella May and the Wishing Stone that gives the book its languid dreamy feel of an endless childhood summer. As is true of the text, there is a lot of personality found in a small amount of ink.
Ella May and the Wishing Stone is a quiet exploration about wishes and friendship. It is the kind of story that is easy to make one’s own. On reflection, it could easily be mistaken for a personal memory.
Lara LeMoal is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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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.