________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 15. . . .December 13, 2013


Leaving Mr. Humphries.

Alison Lohans. Illustrated by Gretchen Ehrsam.
Regina, SK: Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2013.
40 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-927756-07-2.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4



Prolific author Alison Lohans was born in the United States but has lived in Saskatchewan for many years. Her earlier works have been published by Orca Books, Dundurn Press and Thistledown, among others, but she has produced this one through a small self-publishing company, Your Nickel's Worth.

internal art     Young Josh is spending time at a lakeside cottage while his mother is on a business trip. Aunt Judy and Grandpa do their best to introduce the boy to their rustic life, but Josh is clinging to his stuffed bear, Mr. Humphries, for comfort in an unfamiliar situation.

At bedtime I miss mom. My bed’s in the attic. The spooky attic! It’s filled with furniture and boxes and puzzles and books. Spiders too. Grandpa slept here when he was a boy, but I don’t like it.

I hug Mr. Humphries’ fuzzy self against me.

     Josh gains confidence as the days go by, learning to row a small boat and to appreciate nature; and even finding the courage to use the outhouse in the dark. Then, a dramatic episode: Aunt Judy has warned Grandpa about going out in the boat without her, but he and Josh opt for adventure.

We glide, rock, splash, in the waves.

Then Grandpa sneezes. The oars clank in the oarlocks. The loon dives.

‘Oh, no!’ Grandpa says. An oar is floating away.

Grandpa reaches. But I’m closer. I hold on tight

And lean over the water. Grandpa holds on to me.

The boat tips - and I grab the oar.

Grandpa puts it in the oarlock.

‘Well done, Josh,’ he says.

The loon is gone.

And so is Mr. Humphries.

     With Josh’s newfound sense of self, even the loss of his faithful companion toy is overcome in the end.

     Lohans’ writing is crisp and descriptive. The characterization of loving older relatives taking care of an anxious child in their simple way is touching. Josh shows real growth in the course of his visit.

     Gretchen Ehrsam, who is Lohans’ cousin, has illustrated a story which consists in large part of outdoor scenes rendered in a scratchboard technique. The pictures capture the atmosphere of lakeside life - I especially liked the spread with the loon in the foreground of sparkling water surrounded by trees. However the colour is sometimes on the muddy side, and some of the human figures are awkwardly rendered.

     Leaving Mr. Humphries is a book for school and public library collections.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, B.C.

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