________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012


Gracieís Got a Secret.

Heather Conn. Illustrated by Lillian Lai.
Garden Bay, BC: MW Books, 2011.
16 pp., stapled, $9.95.
ISBN 978-0-9868776-0-5.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

* /4



Gracie and her older brother, Freddie, are chasing each other inside their goldfish bowl, stirring up shells and shiny blue pebbles. Gracie, who never keeps still, feels dizzy and stops. She wants to whisper a secret to Freddie, but he flicks his slippery tail in her face and swims off.
She has to tell somebody, but who? "Nobody in my family understands," thinks Gracie. She stares through the glass at the fuzzy world beyond her bowl.

"I know I can tell someone out there."


Gracieís Got a Secret is a message book that teaches children they can make their dreams come true through confidence and self-reliance. Well-intentioned, it nevertheless lacks credible character and plot development.

     Gracie is a goldfish with a secret she thinks must be shared in the outside world, and so she hurls herself out of the fishbowl, away from her familiar surroundings. She is flushed down the toilet and meets an alligator in the sewer. She tells him her secret, and he escapes the sewer. She meets a circus elephant, shares her secret again and the elephant breaks free of her chains.

     Thatís when Gracie realizes she hasnít accomplished her dream, to fly. Full of doubt, she has to push herself to believe she can do it, and the next moment she is winging her way through the sky. Having proven herself, she flies home and drops back into her fish bowl. internal art

     Events in this picture book occur randomly and unbelievably, even for an imaginary story. There is no motivation for Gracie not to share her secret with her brother when she decides she must leave, and itís not clear why she doesnít have confidence to begin with.

     At the storyís conclusion, a page follows with questions and discussion prompts adults can use with children.

     The bright, digital, artwork by Lillian Lai will appeal to children. Gracie is a gorgeous orange goldfish with big eyes and a big smile. Nellie is reminiscent of the pink elephants in Disneyís movie, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant.

     This story lacks subtlety and a realistic challenge for Goldie. There are more interesting stories available, such as John Jensen Feels Different, by Henrik Hovland (Eerdmans 2011), which depicts a character struggling to gain confidence in the course of his life and learning from events and his interaction with people that heís okay.

Not recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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