CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 10. . . .November 9, 2012
Now in its twentieth anniversary edition, Phoebe Gilman's captivating retelling of a Jewish folk song continues to delight and entertain. Something from Nothing shows the progression of time through the ageing and reinventing of Joseph's blanket, first as a jacket, then a vest, then a tie, then a handkerchief, and finally a beautiful button. When the button is lost, it seems the sad conclusion of the tradition since even Joseph's amazing grandfather can't make something from nothing. However, Joseph is able to do just that when he writes out the story of the many transformations for all to share. This book celebrates preservation and family with a well-told story that deserves its identity as a Canadian classic.
The repetition and rhyme makes this a lovely story to share aloud with either caregiver or child as the reader. The story follows a predictable path once begun, and even very young children will sense the pattern and follow closely along. I had the pleasure of reading this book to my small cousins over Skype from miles and miles away, and, even through the separation of the screen, there was a deep connection to the story. There is a beauty that is palpable in these pages.
The level of detail included in Gilman's accompanying oil and egg tempera paintings is astounding. There are so many things to see on each page, from the many rooms of the grandfather's house, to the streets of the small village in which they all live. The highlight, though, is the family of mice living just beneath the floor boards whose actions mimic those of the humans and who embrace the spirit of reusing the fabric even more than Joseph above them. As the story progresses, the mice family grows, and their entire home becomes draped in the scraps of the brilliant blue fabric of the blanket.
Something from Nothing is a story that must be included in any collection of children's literature for teachers, librarians, and families alike.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Toronto, ON, with a passion for children's literature and writing.
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