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Saturday, April 30, 2016

If I Had a Gryphon, written by Vikki VanSickle and illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Tundra Books, Random House. 2016. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"If only I could have a pet
With strange, exotic powers,
I know that I'd find lots to do
To while away the hours.

If I had a unicorn,
I'd braid her silky mane.
I'd make her silver horseshoes
That tinkled in the rain."

Two books of poetic verse for the last day of National Poetry Month. It's been fun to tell you about so many wonderful books during April.  I hope you will find the time to read them to your children at home, and at school.

I read this book to a large group of early years children on Thursday. They were intrigued by all of the imaginary creatures, and eager to turn the pages in order to see which one came next.

Sam has a wonderful imagination, and thinks that any pet would be better than her rather boring hamster. He really doesn't do much ... eat, sleep, hide in the shavings in his cage. Oh, and he drools when he's sleeping, which they thought was pretty funny.

While reading a book about mythological creatures, Sam is inspired. She imagines on page after page what it might be like if her pet were a unicorn, or a hippogriff, or a sasquatch. As Sam thinks on the fun she could share with each new creature she envisions, she also considers the kind of problem she might have to deal with in their wake. Unicorns are terribly shy, hippogriffs intensely active, and a sasquatch requires a lot of grooming. Hmmm!

Perhaps a small, well-behaved hamster is just exactly what she needs, all things considered.

I very much enjoyed reading this rhythmic text, and watching the faces of the children as they met each new creature. They were entertained start to finish, and that is just exactly what we want books to do for our young listeners. I'm sure that Sam is not the first, or last, pet owner to bemoan the fact that their pet doesn't seem all that exciting. Given the other choices she considered, it really didn't matter all that much. The final spread has us all chuckling as we realized that perhaps Sam's hamster wasn't quite as boring as we were led to believe. Kids love a happy surprise to end their books.

This book is perfect for readers who love a little magic in their creatures. Cale Atkinson does a terrific job of making them come alive, in keeping with the imagination and adventure described. The images are created in 'photoshop, fairy dust and phoenix ash' ... which explains why they are so textured, colorful and filled with emotion, I would guess. They also add a great deal of humor to this rhyming tale, causing readers to take the time to check out every detail.

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