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Althea Trotman
Illustrated by Sasso
Toronto, Sister Vision, 1992. 32pp, paper, $6.95
ISBN 920813-70-4. CIP.

Grades 1 to 2/Ages 5 to 7

Reviewed by Caroline Thomson.

Volume 21 Number 3
1993 May

Althea Trotman's story How the Starfish Got to the Sea is the second in her series, complementing How the East Pond Got its Flowers. The stories feature several characters but focus on the lives of the children.

This story is set during the nineteenth century in Antigua, on a sugar plantation at the time of slavery. The author writes at some length about the work the children do and about Papa Biggis and how he had been beaten by the overseer. These details are incidental to what is really the heart of the story: how the starfish got to the sea. Papa Biggis often tells the children stories, and the stories usually have a moral directly connected to one of the children. The story of the starfish is directed at Keturah.

The reader is informed that there is to be a moral to the story. However, as you read the story of how a star from the sky became a star in the sea (a starfish), the moral is somehow lost. The moral is not very clear, despite the fact that Keturah seems to understand it. It would probably be even more obscure to children.

The story is written using Antiguan phrases, and a list of definitions is provided at the back. Use of dis (this), dat (that) and dere (there) and similar dialect may prove difficult for and confusing to the young reader. The print is readable; however, on some pages the text is printed over the picture and makes it more difficult to read. The illustrations are by Sasso and are all black, grey and white. If the pictures were colourful, as is the cover of the book, they would have greater appeal.

How the Starfish Got to the Sea is an imaginative story. Children enjoy this type of story or legend. In this case, however, the moral is obscure, the dialect is difficult, and the pictures lack appeal.

Caroline Thomson is a librarian in Burlington, Ontario.
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