Volume II Number 3
November 3, 1995
Emily Carr's Woo.
Constance Horne. Illustrated by Lissa Calvert.
Lantzville, BC: Oolichan books, 1995. 72pp, paper, $9.95.
Woo (Monkey)-Juvenile fiction.
Carr, Emily, 1871-1945-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4 - 6 / Ages 9 - 11.
Review by A. Edwardsson.
The old ladies were panting slightly when they stepped into Emily's
studio. For a moment they stood sniffing the roast beef smell and smiling
at one another. Alice took off her hat and hung it on a peg. "Where are
the dogs?" she asked.
"In the yard," Emily answered. Alice raised her eyebrows in
surprise. At least three griffons were usually present at her younger
sister's parties. Lizzie looked sharply at the table.
"Where's the rat?" she asked.
"Shut up in the attic,' Emily said. "I know you don't like Suzie to
be on the table at meals."
"Humph," said Lizzie. 'That never stopped you before.'
This tale of a mischievous pet monkey is aimed at a much older crowd than
Rey's Curious George books. Author Constance Horne
(Nikola and Granny) used information gleaned from artist
Emily Carr's books, letters, and diaries to create these fictionalized
stories. It is billed as the adventures of an intelligent monkey that
"will entertain children while informing them about the life of one of
Canada's most important artists."
However, there is very little actual information in this slim
volume. Instead, the book focusses on the monkey's antics, and the most
we learn about Emily is that she is loves animals and is a bit eccentric.
For example, she takes her pets camping in a large caravan called "the
Readers first meet Emily at age fifty-two when she acquires a two
year-old Javanese monkey from a pet shop. When her sisters come for
dinner and discover her new pet, they advise her to send it back. After
they leave, she names it Woo after the mournful sound it makes. She
cuddles Woo and tells her, "Don't worry little monk. I don't have to
listen to my big sisters anymore. I'm fifty-two years old. I own a house
and a business. I'm an artist and some people think I'm a good one. Who
cares what Alice and Lizzie say? You're mine and I'm going to keep you."
Children may wish that they could have a monkey for a pet,
and Woo's escapades might amuse them. But they might also ask why Emily
puts dresses rather than a sweater on Woo when the creature is cold. Or
they might wonder about the larger (more contemporary) question -- is it
fair to keep a monkey as a pet? Unfortunately, the Briticisms and Emily's
age will keep most readers at arms length.
It's just as well that we don't get too attached or involved. In the
final chapter Emily Carr is "very ill" and moves to a smaller home:
Then Emily had another attack and went to the hospital for a long time.
It was too long for the animals to be left alone. What to do with them?
The dogs and birds found homes quickly, but nobody wanted a
fifteen-year-old monkey. Emily's sister Lizzie had died. Alice was blind.
Emily Carr decided that the best place for Woo was the monkey house at
the zoo in Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Younger readers may be concerned with the illness -- what's wrong
and does she get better? When the pets are farmed out there's no good-bye
scene -- a friend goes to the apartment and takes off Woo's dress, and
shortly she and her cage are loaded into a big truck bound for the zoo.
Thankfully, she's befriended on the last page by another monkey.
This book was published on the fiftieth anniversary of Carr's death.
Each chapter is short with large clear text. Artist Lissa Calvert has
added warmth and personality with her detailed black and white pencil
illustrations. The cover portrait of "Woo" is by Emily Carr. This book
unfortunately has limited appeal. It may be of interest to avid animal
lovers, or elementary students enrolled in advanced art classes.
A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of
the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a
Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba
branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.
Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is
maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
Go back to CM Welcome page
Go back to Table of
Contents for this Issue