Friday, July 15, 2011
ON MY ISLAND
By Marie-Louise Gay
(Groundwood Books, 2000)
After reviewing Not a Box by Antoinette Portis in my last post, I thought of On My Island by Canadian author/illustrator Marie-Louise Gay. It's clear that the bunny in Box has an active imagination. What if a child, however, lacks imagination? He even lacks observation skills to take in the amazing world around him. (Think about the upcoming so-called dog days of August when kids hang upside down on sofa, sigh loudly and complain that there's nothing to do.)
According to the boy from On My Island, nothing happens where he lives. Ho-hum. Yawn. The boy just hangs with his (ordinary?) crew: "a wolf, two cats, three ants and a...swo-o-o-ooping bat."
Confession: I was hooked by the three ants. The rest of the critters didn't matter. The wonderful thing about picture books is you can insert something as seemingly random as three ants and keep the viewer's interest throughout. Turning each page, I immediately looked for the typically miscast picnic pests. (Another great thing about picture books? If you get so focused on ant spotting that you miss the story, you can read it again!)
Gay is a masterful storyteller and illustrator. On My Island allows her own imagination and illustrative talents to shine. While the boy and his entourage look one direction, they miss the fanciful, often surreal events around them. (Think Salvador Dali or children's author/illustrator David Wiesner.) Elephants fly in parachutes (and as a kite), a train emerges from the ocean, a large teacup floats by, a dragon pursues a fish which flees on roller skates. There is plenty of visual impact on each page--look beyond the ants! Alas, the boy and his friends are too wrapped up in themselves and their pervasive state of self-fulfilling ennui to ever notice.
On My Island is a natural for repeated readings/viewings.