Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pretend With A Purpose

Some people reside in the same house for their entire lives; a residence passed from generation to generation.  Others move from place to place throughout any given year where their presence is essential to the productivity of seasonal crops.  The act of leaving one home to go to another takes a physical and emotional toll on all the members of a family.

A good friend said in conversation people feel most at home when they find connectedness and purpose.  At a particular location over time friendships are forged but the original justification for being there can suddenly be absent.  In the reverse a calling can be fulfilled but we can still feel adrift with no people to share in our joy.  For children this is amplified in ways adults sometimes fail to completely understand.  Colette's Lost Pet (Random House, May 23, 2017) written and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault reveals the heart of a child who is settling into her new neighborhood.

No, Colette!
For the last time, NO PET!
Now go explore your new

If you think these two statements are upsetting to Colette you would be correct.  She is angry to the point of kicking a packing box so hard it flies over the fence into the neighbor's yard.  There she meets Albert and Tom.  When they ask her what she is doing, she fumbles for words.  She finally states she is looking for her lost pet...a parakeet.

The brothers suggest they seek out Lily who has binoculars.  When Lily asks for a physical description of the bird, Colette again hesitates but eventually she says blue

with a bit of yellow on its neck.

By her observations, Lily is a watcher of our feathered friends.  She proposes they go to Scott's home where he keeps a bird feeder.  The group has grown to four.

Scott has not seen Colette's missing pet but he is curious as to its name.  The neighborhood newcomer searches her mind revealing the name to be Marie-Antoinette.  As each piece of the pet puzzle is disclosed by Colette, the gals and guys offer another's child name that can help in their search.

The qualities and exploits of Marie-Antoinette become more and more particular until they become nearly legendary.  The children are spellbound by Colette's words until a loud voice makes a proclamation which she cannot ignore.  As Colette turns to respond, her new friends each say something which leaves no doubt in readers' minds as to the power of story.

There is not a child (or an adult) who will not be able to identify with the storyline created by Isabelle Arsenault.  Told entirely in dialogue the feelings of Colette are realistically portrayed as is the kindness of the neighborhood children with their recommendations.  With each visit to the different girls and boys, the new descriptions are added to the previous ones.  This encourages audience participation.  It's a powerful technique to bring the story back to the beginning stronger for the variety of the children and their offered "gifts" to Colette.  Here is a sample conversation.

Hey, Maya!

Have you see Colette's lost pet?
It's a parakeet.  It's blue with a bit of yellow on its neck, and its
name is Marie-Antoinette.

What does it sound like?

Um, well...uh...
Like Prrrrrr
Prrrr PrrrrrruiiiiiiiT!
And it speaks a
little bit, too.
But only in French.
Bien sur!

The limited color palette seen on the opened dust jacket is used wonderfully throughout the entire title.  Isabelle Arsenault's lines, brush strokes and use of light and shadow work well with these hues.  To the left, on the back of the jacket, is the kicked cardboard box, now upright with the parakeet peeking around a corner.  The same yellow is used as a canvas for the book case.  On the front is Colette, looking happy.  On the back is the parakeet, beak open in song or perhaps speaking French.

On the opening and closing endpapers in shades of gray and black is a map of Clark Alley in Mile End, backyards lined up on both sides.  Colette's backyard is colored in yellow.  Careful readers will notice the slight differences between the two.

Rendered in pencils, watercolor, and ink with digital coloration in Photoshop, 

the illustrations are a blend of single pages and a group of images on a single page, some framed like a graphic novel.  As the story moves toward the conclusion readers will notice the use of blue is increased.  Isabelle Arsenault has a distinctive style in the delicate details she supplies in her characters and her depiction of grasses, flowers and trees.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a half-page.  It's our first view of Maya in her backyard.  Along the back is a fence.  In front of this and around the fountain are many different kinds of potted plants.  In the center of the fountain is a large open-mouthed fish spouting water.  Eyes closed Maya is holding a large seashell, listening.  Splashes of yellow are seen in two of the flowers and the watering can.  A bit of blue is used also.

I can hardly wait to read Colette's Lost Pet written and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault aloud to students.  This is not only for those children who have or are in the process of moving but to help others to understand how far kindness and imagination can go in making friends.  I would pair it with these marvelous titles about moving, The Quiet Place, Bad Bye, Good Bye, Yard Sale, Lenny & Lucy and That Neighbor Kid.

To discover more about Isabelle Arsenault and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  If you follow this link to the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  There are more interior illustrations at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Isabelle Arsenault is on Instagram .  Isabelle Arsenault is this year's Canadian, International Board on Books for Young People, nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award

No comments:

Post a Comment