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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ava and the Little Folk, written by Neil Christopher and Alan Neal, with illustrations by Jonathan Wright. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012. $13.95 ages 6 and up

"But as the sleds approached, he realized they were not very far away at all. They were simply very small, just like the man in front of him. None of them was taller than Ava's knee. And they were accompanied by dogs that were the size of siksiks, the little ground squirrels that burrowed into the ground around town."

Have you ever wanted to change your size whenever you chose to do so? Think of the possibilities ... being shorter than the acceptable height for a ride at Disney World ... easy, just get taller! Too tall to get inside the snow fort built by a group of friends ... easy, just get smaller. Who hasn't wanted to do those things?

Consider Ava. When we meet him, he is freezing cold, starving, and alone in his world. Imagine the joy he feels when he meets the 'small folk' who are willing to show him just exactly how he might change his world as he makes adjustments to it.

In this folktale from the Arctic, we meet those 'small folk'; they are so much a part of the literature of the North. They are renowned hunters. They can change size when the situation calls for it. They are able to change weather when it is needed. Now there is a skill that would make northern winters more palatable.

Ava's home is the North. Readers learn much about that harsh and wondrous environment through the authors' vivid descriptions:

"As he charged on, excitement  started to mingle with fear in his mind. He had heard the hunters in his village talk about huge white bears suddenly appearing in the white drift, like a phantom from nowhere, a sudden mass of claws and teeth, roaring. Those stories had plagued him in nightmares. Would a hidden bear pounce upon him? What if he could not fight or escape it?"

Jonathan Wright's illustration add lustre and life to the story being told. Realistic in the portrayal of the North, and of these characters, the artwork adds an appeal that will have readers poring over their expressions, their movement and the excitement of accompanying the little folk on the hunt.

It is lengthy, but this is a tale that will be enjoyed by all readers and listeners!   

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