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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Most Magnificent Thing, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2014. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"When she is finished, she steps back to admire her work. She walks around one side. Her assistant examines the other side ...
It doesn't look right. Her assistant picks it up and gives it a shake. It doesn't feel right...either."

There are times, for each one of us, when we become overwhelmed and frustrated by things that don't go as we had hoped they would. How we react to those feelings determines future success. It is not surprising that this 'regular' girl succumbs to disappointment when what she sees in her head and draws with her hands, does not prove viable.

She gives it her best shot. No matter what she tries, it doesn't become the magnificent thing she imagined. Her loyal bulldog assistant is with her every step of the way, offering company and little else:

"The girl tinkers and hammers and measures...
...while her assistant pounces
and growls and chews."

With each new attempt at creating what she has so diligently designed, she encounters disaster. As she fails miserably time after time, she becomes more and more frustrated by the process. Her assistant remains by her side, impressed by her persistence in the face of such adversity:

"The girl saws and glues and adjusts.
She stands and examines and stares.
She twists and tweaks and fashions.
She fixes and straightens and studies."

The process is endless. When acute anger overcomes her, it is her assistant that comes to the rescue.    He sits down beside her, leash at the ready. A walk allows attention to be given to the neighborhood and its many sights, sounds and smells.

"Bit by bit, the mad gets pushed out of her head."

Now, she is ready to try one more time!

Ashley Spires uses a red polka-dot dress to keep our attention firmly on the young artist, and changing perspectives to draw her audience into the constant action. She also makes us acutely aware of the range of emotion felt by her protagonist and mirrored by her worthy assistant. I love the black lines of the neighborhood background, the worth her neighbors find in her discarded experiments, and the joy she and her pal experience when 'the most magnificent thing' is realized!

Well done, young lady!

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