CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 25. . . .March 2, 2012
The Adventures of Gus & Isaac: Backyard Bullies
Debbie Hanlon. Illustrated by Grant Boland.
St. John's, NL: Breakwater Books, 2012.
36 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.
Review by Roxy Garstad.
Gus slewed and skittered away from Isaac.
"Don't be such as scardy cat," Isaac yelled, "I'm no bully!"
Gus turned to Isaac and said, "I'm not a scardy cat, I'm a scardy gull."
"If you're afraid, why don't you just fly away?" Isaac asked.
Gus looked sad. "I don't like flying," he said. "I'm afeard of heights."
The Adventures of Gus & Isaac: Backyard Bullies is a new addition to the slew of anti-bullying children's literature. The story features two appealing characters, atypical from other members of their species: Gus the seagull, who is terrified of heights and thus avoids flying as much as possible, and Isaac, the bob-tailed cat who was born without a tail. The story follows Isaac's interactions with three cats, Vamps, Berg, and Flake, who cruelly bully and attack Isaac, all under the alarmed and unsure eyes of Gus the seagull. Gus's intervention proves to be the distraction that allows Isaac to escape from his tormentors, and, in the process, Gus learns that he can fly well after all. A new friendship is struck, and Gus and Isaac dream of further adventures they will partake in together.
The illustrator, Grant Boland, adds so much interest to the story with his intriguing illustrations that the reader will want to take extra time with this book. Preschoolers, especially, will keenly examine each page The characters spring to life with delightful expressions and Boland's bold use of colour. While Isaac bears a striking resemblance to Garfield in the illustrations, the character comes into his own as the book progresses. Fine details of other objects are captured, such as glistening cherries that one almost wants to pull off the page to eat! East Coast architecture and The Narrows of St. John's are painted exquisitely. The triumph of this book rests in its artwork.
Unfortunately, the use of regional terminology distracts from what is otherwise good and compelling writing. Had the author chosen to use more Canadian-inclusive terminology, the book would certainly be more appealing to a national audience. Instead, the use of words specific to the East Coast limits its appeal – they effectively work as stop words. A glossary located at the end of the book is more frustrating than useful - it is not even alphabetized, as is the standard practice with glossaries. Such books appear to be targeted more toward impressing parents, teachers, and librarians, rather than writing for children – which should be the true, intended audience. Highly recommended for Atlantic Canadian public and school libraries; otherwise –
Roxy Garstad is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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