CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 2 . . . . September 20, 2002
All of Emily's friends have a loving relative who spends time with them: "Sarah had an aunt who took her to the ballet. Chris had grandparents who cheered at her baseball games." Emily feels lonely and ignored, and she longs for someone to pay special attention to her. Taking matters into her own hands, Emily decides to post a help wanted sign in the grocery store: "WANTED: AN AUNT FOR EMILY. PLEASE APPLY SATURDAY AT 32 MAPLE STREET, APARTMENT 4." Her advertisement attracts the attention of a group of women from the Senior Center down the street, and they ask permission to take Emily on some outings.
On their first excursion, Aunt Winnie and the seventeen other aunts take Emily to the ballet. Everything goes well until Aunt Roxie falls asleep and her purse falls open, spilling the contents down the aisle and startling the ballerina. When the aunts attend Emily's baseball game, Aunt Carmen causes a scene when she argues with the umpire. The aunts even create a disturbance at the ice cream parlour when Aunt Winnie's hedgehog scares all the customers.
Emily is embarrased by her new-found aunts and decides she doesn't want to see them anymore. She brushes off their invitations, wishing "If only they weren't so... so ... different." She regrets her callous actions when she later sees a poster that says: "WANTED: NIECE OR NEPHEW FOR LONELY AUNTS. APPLY AT THE SENIOR CENTER. P.S. Must be willing to put up with all kinds of aunts." She realizes she has hurt the feelings of people who were kind to her, and she tries to make amends.
Andrea Wayne von Königslöw's watercolor illustrations depict the mayhem at the outings, and children will be amused by such humorous details as a ballerina stuck in a tuba and ice cream cones peeking out of purses.
Although the premise of the story is not realistic - no child should meet strangers who reply to a want ad - the emotions explored do ring true. The book could be used as a springboard to discuss loneliness and appreciation and acceptance of differences.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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