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Monday, August 15, 2011

A Few Blocks, written and illustrated by Cybele Young. Groundwood, 2011. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"Viola handed him a piece of cardboard and said, "Don't let the king see you like this. He needs his bravest knight to fight the fierce fire-breathing dragon who has stolen the princess."

If you have kids, or know some, you have likely used many of the same tricks that Viola finds herself using while trying to coax her little brother through the 'few blocks' it takes to get to school. Ferdie does not want to go.

He has work to do:

"But Ferdie had eleven cars to wash, the highest tower ever to build and a snake drawing that wasn't done yet."

His iguana Spike doesn't have to go, and he seems content. Viola does what needs to be done to get Ferdie out the door and on the way. First, it's a superfast cape and rocket blaster boots. Conquering all evil causes a fuel shortage and by the time they land to refuel, Ferdie has had enough. Viola is a pro at persuasion, and soon she has inspired her little brother to captain a ship in search of buried treasure.

Finally, there is only one more adventure:

"He followed the smell of burning wood in the forest, pushed through thickets, crawled through tunnels and stumbled upon some giant twisting trees.
A sooty snort sounded above his head. He saw the princess hanging there, clutched tight in the dragon's claws."

Once the princess is freed, she is very tired. Now, she refuses to budge. In a most pleasing twist, Ferdie must turn the tables on his sister, and the adventurous trek to school is accomplished.
The artwork that Cybele Young creates for her second picture book is very dramatic. When the children are not involved in some new adventure, there is little color and a great deal of white space. However, each of their fantastic flights of fancy allows them access to a world of paper-cut images, filled with action and color.

Each new escapade takes time to invent and abundant energy from Viola; then it must be carefully considered by Ferdie. This makes the 'few blocks' a journey worth making, and worth a revisit!

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