CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013
Nine-year-old Mimi Power struggles to survive the antics of her three-year-old sister, nicknamed Waby, while trying desperately to find time to think about an idea for her school’s art show and auction. Finally setting on a layered sky scene, Mimi’s painting is ruined when Waby spreads yogurt on it. Desperate, Mimi takes inspiration from Matisse’s paper-cut technique and reframes the surviving parts of the tableau as a window perspective, an action which helps her class raise the most money at the auction.
Written in an intense, angst-ridden, yet slightly ironic tone that perfectly channels an intelligent, yet self-absorbed nine-year-old girl, Mimi Power is a new twist on the timeless story of a child who feels put upon by an attention-grabbing younger sibling. In this case, the constant antics of Waby distract Mimi and her family from spending time on one of her favorite pastimes – art. Waby’s behaviour is at once familiar and exaggerated—especially the chapter where the family tries desperately to find Bunny Jim, Waby’s essential naptime companion, finally catching up to the plush animal hanging as a mascot from a garbage truck. Mimi has to tempt the sanitation worker with a London taxi “tippy pen” to get the bunny back.
While occasionally overshadowed by these rather lengthy episodes, Mimi’s fascination with art is vivid and made all the more real by her very real struggle to put what she sees in her mind on paper. She’s no prodigy by any means, but like any nine-year-old, she knows that she’s something special, if only others could see it. When the art-show plot finally gets moving, the book really hits some depth, although it never loses its sense of fun. And though Waby is presented as non-stop annoying, there are tender moments where Mimi realizes her love for her sister.
Occasionally a little over the top, Mimi as a narrator is clipped, self-referential and occasionally very funny. One chapter, titled “Waby Goes to the Dentist”, contains just this one line:
The book is firmly set in the 21st-century, with Mimi’s mom working from home in “market research”, complete with omnipresent phone headset, and Mimi’s best friend being the Indo-Canadian Rani. A couple of odd English uses aside (“stuffie” for stuffed animal, “felts” for markers), this book is right at home in the hands of today’s child, and it is complemented very nicely by Marc Mongeau’s whimsical, exaggerated, out-of-proportion and occasionally ironic black and white illustrations.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.
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