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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Read Me A Story, Stella, written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Groundwood, 2013. $16.95 ages 4 and up

"Why are you laughing,
Stella?" asked Sam.
"This book is so funny. It
tells you how to make soup
with stones, how to teach
your cat to fly, and what to
do if a wolf knocks at your
"Does your book tell you
how to build a doghouse?"
asked Sam."

How I have missed Stella and Sam! It's been four years, and I am so happy to see that they have not changed. Stella is still the patient and knowledgeable big sister, while Sam remains the ever-inquisitive and imaginative little brother. I love their good-humoured, playful conversations. Welcome back, you two!

As they spend their day happily together, there is much that Sam wants to know and much that Stella has to teach. Stella is happy reading her books. Sam is happy asking every question that pops into his head. Once the doghouse is built, they deserve a picnic at Lily Pond. Sam has some concerns about the inhabitants there; Stella reassures him that his worries are of no concern at all. Sam brings all of his many discoveries to Stella and she provides acceptable observations to satisfy his curiosity.

On their way home, Sam encourages their dog Fred to try kite flying. Fred is good, until he barks out his happiness:
"Uh-oh," said Stella. "I guess Fred shouldn't have barked."
"Will the kite get caught on a cloud?" cried Sam.
"Will it get burned by the sun?"
"Kites know their way around the sky," said Stella.
"They ride the wind until they find their way home."

And to the day goes...satisfying and filled with the everyday occurrences that can make life with siblings such fun. It all seems so right and natural. Stella is an avid reader of every genre, and helps Sam see the benefits of being one, without any overt mention of such things. She assumes that she will be able to find and share what she needs from the books that she so loves. In the end, she proves that she has learned a lot about storytelling, too. There is no parental interference, and no obvious rules about being outside and on their own exploring nature and life. I love it!

The magic that Marie-Louise Gay creates with her watercolors, pencil, pastel and collage of Japanese papers will never cease to amaze me! She uses all available white space to create scenes which are sure to entertain readers and invite careful observation. The children have an 'every child' quality, as does their dog Fred. They are familiar and oh, so sweet.

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