CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012
Cross Katie Kross.
Donna Morrissey. Illustrated by Bridgette Morrissey.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.00.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Elizabeth Walker.
Katie walked and walked And then the road ended. "What, again?" Katie Kross jumped up and down. "Jumpins!" she screamed. "Another road that leads nowhere? I want to go to Love Valley!" She jumped up and down in such a rage that the birds fell silent in the forest and the wind ceased to blow. She kicked an an ornamented tree till her shoe fell off.
Curmudgeonly old lady Katie Kross lives alone. She is full of spite for every aspect of her daily routine and longs to live in the land she dreams about, Love Valley. One morning, sick of her house and her life, she sets off into the woods to find the legendary Love Valley. Led astray first by a rabbit, then by a fox, Katie becomes disoriented, frustrated and even angrier. When she finally emerges out of the forest, bruised and shaken, back at her home, she comes to an important realization.
Mother-daughter team Donna and Bridgette Morrissey's first picture book is a promising start for this talented pair. It is an enjoyable read, one with which children will easily engage. Clearly the Morrisseys' aim is to craft a classically structured fable. Many of the tropes are there trickster animals, an old crone, a house in the woods, a moral at the end but the tale does not leave the reader with the emotional impact that it could. For example, the moral she's been living in Love Valley all along is hardly a surprise. Moreover, Katie's development from cranky old woman to grateful sage at the end is also rather pat. The humour Donna tries to inject into the text Katie's buzzword is "Jumpins!" falls a little flat at times. At the climax of the story, Katie throws a classic toddler tantrum, a scene that has the potential for great comedy, but which plays out flatly.
Bridgette's watercolour illustrations are lovely, using soft pastel hues and an almost "naοve" style to depict the story's happenings, with wonderful use of subtle shading and outlining on all the details of the pictures. Even though the main character is a human, Bridgette's real talent lies in painting animals. The critters in this book are simply beautiful, from the fox with his luxurious coat to the squirrels and tiny sparrows observing Katie's meltdown. This is an artist to watch.
While it's not a profound or particularly memorable picture book, Cross Katie Kross is a promising start to the Morrissey mother-daughter team's career. I look forward to seeing future creations from this talented duo.
Elizabeth Walker is a teacher-librarian in Vancouver, BC.
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