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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Edwin Speaks Up, written by April Stevens and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. schwartz & wade books, Random House. 2011. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"It was a fine day as Mrs. Finnemore and her five children trooped down the front steps and out to their old car. "I call the front seat!" Fergus hollered. "But Mommmmy," Franny complained. "Fergus always gets the front seat."

It's been a long time since I took little ones grocery shopping with me! I don't remember it being too traumatic...they will remember it from a different perspective. When they requested sugar cereal, I was quick to ask if it had already been 7 years since we got the last box. They didn't think I was funny, but didn't argue much. When it was time to go through the checkout and avoid the begging that was sure to happen given the treats tucked right at child's-eye level, I tried to sneak in line behind someone else with children; they could entertain my kids while we all waited. Remember how mesmerized they were by other children?

Now, five kids? I don't think so! Mrs. Finnemore takes them all when she must get some shopping done. She seems calm as they proceed to the grocery with a list in hand, all five children in tow and a need to buy sugar for Edwin's birthday cake. Edwin is the baby. He jabbers before they leave the house, as they drive to the store, as they navigate the aisles of the grocery store...even while experiencing a short separation from his family.

His mother doesn't seem to notice much as the children bicker in the car, roll vegetable cans in the aisle, fight over turn-taking. She even manages to take the wrong cart and leave her littlest child behind. Edwin, on the other hand, notices everything and does his best to let his mother know what is really going on:

"Gloody pooper do no LEAVEY"

Astute readers, and listeners, will understand the humor that feeds this story of Edwin and his very hectic family. Mommy loses her car keys, her purse, her cart and even one of the bags of groceries that she buys. In each case, if the family took the time to listen to Edwin's 'babblings', they would discover something quite astounding. Young readers will quickly catch on...and want to share with his mother what Edwin is saying!

The children have been given only one direction for the shopping trip...remember the sugar for tomorrow's cake! When it looks like it might be left behind, and no one is listening to what Edwin is trying to tell them, he takes matters into his own hands...climbs down from the cart, makes his way to the sugar aisle, and returns to the checkout just in time for his mother to pay for it. When they finally get to the car and leave the bag with the sugar on the roof, Edwin has only one thing to say:

"Roofum sweet"

No one is listening!

 You will very much enjoy the mixed media watercolor artwork that Sophie Blackall creates for this humorous family story. She uses variety in color and tone, and a lot of patterns to capture the reader's attention. Edwin's speech bubbles provide contrast to the pale backgrounds. Some of the words captured in these bubbles will add surprise and delight to the sharing.

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