________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 34. . . .May 3, 2013


Willow Finds a Way.

Lana Button. Illustrated by Tania Howells.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-842-3.

Subject Heading:
Bullying in schools-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Willow Moonbeam.

*** /4



In Willow's class, Kristabelle was the boss. Willow wished for words that would say, "no," when Kristabelle told her where to sit, and what to play, and who to play with. But when Kristabelle spoke, everyone did as they were told. Even Willow.

One morning, Kristabelle skipped into the classroom holding a pink sparkly paper. "I am having a fantastic birthday party!" she announced. "You can come," she said, holding the paper high, "if you are on my birthday list."


Willow Finds a Way is a follow up to Lana Button's first book, Willow's Whisper, also illustrated by Tania Howells. This time, Willow is suffering peer pressure, mostly from Kristabelle who is bossy and used to being in charge. Kristabelle is also having a birthday party, and everyone in the class is invited, if they do exactly as she tells them until the party. Willow does not want to do the things that Kristabelle wants, but eventually Willow complies, as do the others in the class, because she wants to go to the party. It does not take long, however, before Kristabelle starts to un-invite some of the students who do not follow her instructions, such as wearing pink to school. Willow is conflicted about this situation, but she does not know what to do about it because she does want to go to the party. Willow Finds a Way is a story about bullying and about Willow's inventive, and inclusive, solution.

     Tania Howells' illustrations were rendered in Photoshop. She uses a simple and clear style which evokes the kind of drawings that children, themselves, create, a style very appropriate for the story. Each child is distinctive and varied in a nicely multicultural classroom. Despite the simplicity of the style, each child is very expressive and shown to have an emotional character. Rather than being placed in a typical scene, most of the figures appear on a white background although there is always enough detail to clearly see what is important in the scene. Howells graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1997 and has since worked as an illustrator. The simple style of the images makes them more approachable, allowing readers to fill in their own idea of a classroom.

      Willow is shown to be a courageous and creative child who remains true to her inner voice. In this story, she struggles with what others want her to do and what she, herself, thinks is right. She comes up with a solution that is nonviolent, non-confrontational and is only for her. The other students in the class join in showing that her solution also works for them. While the other students give Kristabelle the cold shoulder, Willow re-accepts her into the group. This action leads to Kristabelle’s taking responsibility for her harmful actions and, therefore, providing the happy ending.

     Willow Finds a Way is a compelling story as we all want to be able to find a way to solve the problem of bullying in an acceptable way. Even though readers are shown Willow struggling with a solution, in the end it seems too easy. It is also not clear why Kristabelle is the boss in the first place. The illustrations, while very appealing, leave the characters disconnected much of the time. These are minor quibbles, and overall this is a good addition to stories about bullying, and it is a pleasurable read with a satisfying conclusion. It is also refreshing to have a story that shows that children have rich inner lives and are faced with many conflicts and choices.


Willow Moonbeam, a librarian and college math professor living in Toronto, ON, is interested in knitting, astrology and learning new things.

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

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