________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 21. . . .February 3, 2012


JoJo the Giant.

Jane Barclay. Illustrated by Esperança Melo.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-976-4.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4



JoJo was a very small boy with big dreams. He lived with his mother and a marmalade cat in an apartment over a deli. His mother was a mail carrier, and rain or shine, she delivered packages and letters.


JoJo and his mother walk home after school every day. After he has poured her a cup of tea and waited for her to take three sips, he asks the big question: "How much did I grow today?" With the space of a hair between her finger and her thumb, his mother shows him. "This much," she says. Poor JoJo sighs. Despite the fact that his mother tells him good things come in small packages, he is not convinced. As he sees it, bigger is better, and all the broccoli he is eating and the milk he is drinking are not working fast enough! When he discovers a sign at the local shoe store advertising a race with a pair of Rocket Racers—the ones with the silver stars on the sides—as first prize, JoJo decides to sign up. Big Tony, the neighborhood bully, is full of scorn for his decision, causing JoJo to make his usual fast getaway. "Yo! Yo!" shouted the bullies on the corner as he zoomed past. Check out the runaway shrimp!" Luckily for JoJo, he has developed his speed by running away from bullies, an oft-repeated experience that stands him in good stead on the day of the race.

internal art      JoJo the Giant is a slight, fast-moving story with a theme that will appeal to many children, particularly boys whose small stature or late growth spurt gives them feelings of insignificance or inferiority. Jane Barclay, author of Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion (2009), describes herself as a "tea-drinking, dog-walking, house-cleaning, lawn-cutting, short-order cook and writer. But as her note on the dedication page makes clear ("To hard-working moms and those who appreciate them"), she has great sympathy for the unacknowledged heroine of her story, JoJo's mom. In fact, although JoJo wins the race and gets the trophy, it is his mother who ends up wearing the silver-starred racing shoes!

      Graphic artist and book designer Esperança Melo is a gifted illustrator who has created bold, expressive paintings which give JoJo the Giant a strong sense of character and action. Her illustrations perfectly convey the urban setting that is home to JoJo and his mom. JoJo the Giant will be enjoyed by kindergarten and early elementary students and is very likely to inspire a discussion among the children on the importance (or lack of importance!) of being tall.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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