CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 20. . . . June 6, 2003
"If I became
In I'd Know You Anywhere, author Hazel Hutchins, together with illustrator Ruth Ohi, has a deft hand at dealing with the fear that a child's parents would be unable to recognize him/her should he/she become lost. A preschool child, Jeremy, is staring at a toy display. When he looks up, Jeremy realizes his teddy bear is missing. After he searches for and finds it, he and his father head home. Once home, Jeremy asks his father if he metamorphosed into a frog, an octopus, a sheep, a cloud or a blade of grass, "Would you know me then?" Dad's consistent reply of "I'd know you" reassures Jeremy, and the tone of the question becomes lighthearted. They don simple monster costumes, assure each other they recognize one another, give teddy a monster costume and go see mom.
Ruth Ohi's first five watercolor illustrations introduce the story's theme and narrate its beginning. Her use of only essential details on stark white backgrounds with matching wide borders, in combination with zoom-in views at children's eye level, focus the readers on Jeremy's emotions as he loses and then finds his teddy bear. When Jeremy starts asking "Would you know me...?" Ohi's bright, colorful backgrounds spill over two pages to create detailed environments for each thing Jeremy changes into. On the bottom left half of the two page spread, Ohi again uses stark white backgrounds to focus the reader on the image of Jeremy and his father sharing loving embraces as dad replies, "Id know you." As Jeremy and his dad start to play monsters Ohi changes to white backgrounds, and the character's feelings become the focus of the illustrations.
Hazel Hutchins' text reflects the everyday images, experiences, and concerns of a preschool child. While the vocabulary and sentence structures are not authentic speech for four or five year old children, they are capable of understanding the language. Preschool children will enjoy the text's gentle cadence when Jeremy speaks. Hutchins cleverly focuses the reader on the father's comforting reply by changing this cadence. Her use of repetition of ideas and text will heighten children's anticipation of what object Jeremy might transform into next. Children will delight in the absurd idea of changing into animals or inanimate objects.
Hutchins manages to use play and humor to allay children's fears about being lost. This book could be the jumping off point for many games of "Would you know me if...."
It is refreshing to see a father in the role of a loving, playful caregiver.
I'd Know You Anywhere is a treat to share and enjoy.
Kathleen Kirk is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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