CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 11. . . .November 17, 2017
Tors Cove, NL: Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2017.
32 pp., paperback, $11.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Alex Matheson.
Kate knew that capelin were little fish that you found on the beach in early summer. She wondered what they had to do with the weather. Maybe they rained from the sky…
So Kate watched the sky and the sea and the shore, but she didn't see any capelin.
Kate is eager for summer to begin. Like other kids her age, she looks forward to bonfires and picnics and chalk drawings, but it's just too cold and wet. When will her luck change? In Capelin Weather, Lori Doody captures a uniquely Newfoundland experience, an experience that is somehow still accessible and relatable to those who have not observed it themselves. With charming illustrations and solid writing, Doody has created a lovely little picture book that is worth a second look.
The plot of Doody's story is not revolutionary, or particularly gripping, but it does serve a purpose. This is not the story of Kate as she experiences capelin weather so much as it is the story of capelin weather told through Kate. Could Doody have written a story and worked capelin weather into it? Yes, but I don't think that that is what she was going for, and as an illustration of a unique natural phenomenon, I think she did a good job of adding enough narrative to keep it from being boring, while not having it feel lost in a story, or like the story was shoehorned into the book. Readers are learning, but it does not feel like they are being taught. What the author has also managed to do very well here is capture that mood that many readers will be familiar with – that feeling of waiting for summer to begin,.
Doody's writing is strong and clear. She is descriptive and uses language that is appropriate for young readers. There is a small amount of environmental print throughout the story, and one particularly clever blending of text and image is achieved when she writes about weather and incorporates the types of symbols a child might see on television or a parent's weather app into the image to represent the types of weather she is discussing. The pacing of the writing is very child-friendly, deftly alternating between shorter and longer sentences and phrases to keep attention focused. If Capelin Weather was to be used for a lesson or a storytime, there is added factual information at the back of the book. While there are a few names and concepts that may be new to some readers, Doody does not overwhelm the reader with new information (another point that keeps the story from feeling didactic).
Like any true picture book, the images in Capelin Weather serve not only to illustrate, but to enhance the story, and that they do. Doody's use of environmental print and symbols has been discussed, but what will truly delight young readers in this book are the images. Looking at Doody's art, it is no surprise that she comes from a printmaking background; it shines through. It can be seen in the image of a sky full of capelin, expertly composed, or the subtle but deliberate details of white spirals in the surf. It is clear, looking at these colourful yet muted images, that Doody knows what she's doing. The images are simple without looking amateurish, and they are also beautiful. The best word to describe them, perhaps, would be charming, but that word may not do them enough justice. The longer you explore Doody's pictures, the more you see. Young readers will certainly enjoy finding tiny capelin hiding, barely visible in clouds, or on a brooch, as well as other hidden treasures throughout the book.
While Capelin Weather is certainly not the type of book that most individuals would identify as a 'first buy' because of its very specific subject matter and regionality, it is worth attention. Some books coming out of smaller presses are unfortunately immediately discounted, but Capelin Weather proves that, when given a chance, these small presses can sometimes create magic. Capelin Weather would be an excellent purchase for any library but especially those looking to increase the amount of strong literature representing the Atlantic region in their collection.
Alex Matheson is a children's librarian who hails from the Maritimes, but is currently living in Vancouver, BC.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
|This Creative Commons license allows you to download the review and share it with others as long as you credit the CM Association. You cannot change the review in any way or use it commercially.
Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.
Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - November 17, 2017.
CM Home | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive