________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 13 . . . . March 3, 2000

cover Summerhouse.

Laurence Anholt. Illustrated by Lynne Russell.
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Kids (Distributed by General Distribution Services), 1999.
30 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-7737-3152-0.

Subject Headings:

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.
Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


There were no other footprints in the silent garden as Ella walked across the snow. She looked back at her family, laughing and laughing inside. She tried to find the sunshine inside herself, but it just wasn't there.

Ella climbed the icy wooden steps to the summerhouse door and pushed the key in the lock. She turned the handle and shoved hard, but the door was frozen shut. So Ella kicked it hard.

The door swung open just a little. Just a tiny crack. A warm light was shining from inside.

Then the door burst open, and Ella fell right inside the summerhouse and tumbled onto the floor.

It was warm in there and the noise was loud. Sort of surf sighing. Sort of seabirds crying. Sort of palm leaves rustling.

image This gentle picture-book fantasy shows the transformation of a serious little girl into a cheerful child. When the story begins, Ella is the only one in her family who doesn't respond to her grandmother's infectious laughter. Grandma, realizing that she needs to find some inner sunshine, gives Ella a key to the summerhouse that Grandpa built to remind her of the brightly coloured beach huts of their island home. When Ella turns the key, she discovers a magical beach paradise and, as she plays in the blue-green sea and silvery sand throughout the long afternoon, she understands the sunshine of her grandma's smile. Ella's smile, when she returns to Grandma, is "like sun breaking though clouds," and it develops into a chuckle, a rumble and then "the loudest laugh that anyone has ever heard."

Lynne Russell's vibrant colours and luxuriant illustrations are a perfect complement to the story. Grandma is generously-proportioned in body as well as in spirit, while Ella's vague dissatisfaction is evident in her expressions and body language. By contrast, once in the lush tropical environment of the summerhouse, Ella's reserve dissipates, and the rich brown tones of her skin glow in the reflected sunlight. Her gap-toothed smile is heart-warming indeed, as is the final illustration of Ella snuggled asleep in Grandma's lap. While children may miss the metaphor, they will respond to the close bond between grandparent and child and to the fabulous secret they share.


Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.

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ISSN 1201-9364