CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 11 . . . . November 16, 2012
When Abby discovers two smooth, warm, oval objects in her backyard, she instantly realizes that they are eggs. No matter if her parents repeatedly suggest that they are actually stones; Abby knows what she sees, and she is determined to love whatever kind of creatures are inside, even if they turn out to be alligators. Luckily, she ends up with a pair of birds that soon share in all of her day-to-day experiences.
This is Tsiang and Leng’s second book about Abby, and fans of A Flock of Shoes will be happy for another chance to meet this imaginative and plucky girl, along with her funny, roly-poly puppy. Abby’s enthusiasm and energy are particularly engaging, and her creative pet care techniques (such as trying to hatch the eggs herself, or building nests out of everything from chopsticks to shoes to wool sweaters) are sure to keep readers entertained. One of the story’s strongest elements is the way in which Abby stubbornly holds to her belief in the birds, even when she encounters resistance from the more literal-minded adults in her life.
The Stone Hatchlings deals with classic themes of imagination, art, friendship, and growing up. While some of these ideas will resonate with a child audience, the story’s conclusion—in which Abby’s birds begin to pine away until she sets them free—seems primarily aimed at reassuring parents that children are able to recognize when it is time to let imaginary friends go. However, readers of all ages will enjoy following Abby’s crazy antics and appreciate the humour and heart of this story.
Leng’s vibrant illustrations fit well with the tone of the text, conveying a lot of movement and energy. There is quite a bit of variation in terms of layout, with full pages spreads interspersed among sequences of spot illustrations. Leng’s ability to capture a range of expressions with a few simple strokes is impressive, whether she is depicting a gleeful Abby or her somewhat baffled parents. Interestingly, the illustrator has chosen to use photographic media for Abby’s eggs, with the birds’ heads and wings sketched in, a juxtaposition that visually reinforces the themes of reality and imagination.
In a few instances, there is a slight disconnect between the text and illustrations, but this typically works to generate more humour. For instance, when the text reads, “Abby picked up the eggs carefully,” the accompanying image shows her clutching the eggs to her chest and racing up the stairs at top speed. Leng shows a bit of a tendency to illustrate every action described, and a couple of speech bubbles also seem to replicate the text unnecessarily. However, the cartoonish style of the illustrations has considerable child appeal, and Leng includes many small details that reward observant readers.
All in all, a quite enjoyable offering.
Megan Sorenson is a librarian from Vancouver, B.C.
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