CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006
A young boy’s imagination runs rampant in this colourful tale of preschool adventure. Jennings and Lightburn combine young children’s twin passions—fairy tales and birthday parties—to present an enjoyable insight into the vivid imagination of a preschooler with a sweet tooth. After all, the treasure that our hero seeks is a roomful of baked treats liberally coated with icing and sugar. These treats have, no doubt, been lovingly and painstakingly prepared for the boy’s upcoming fourth birthday party. Alas, waiting for the celebrations (and the eating) to begin can seem to take an eternity.
In an ideal world, threats to preschoolers’ well-being would be limited to nothing more harmful than the world-of-fantasy creations of their own imaginations. So it is in The Happily Ever Afternoon. The “ferocious dragons” with whom our young hero must contend are none other than the slumbering family pets. An even greater threat looms in the possible displeasure of the boy’s parents—they with the power to cast the boy into the dungeon. It should be stated, however, that the lonely dungeon looks not unlike a young boy’s fun bedroom, complete with soft toys, comic books, and building blocks.
Ron Lightburn’s illustrations for this book are done in oil on paper. Unfortunately, despite an abundance of colour, the colour has a somewhat “washed-out” appearance. The artwork also lacks fine detail. As such, I don’t find the artwork particularly appealing. Where there is so much colour, one is left wishing it had greater vibrancy and was, thus, more in keeping with a vibrant and energetic protagonist and the way that he would, no doubt, view his world.
One strength of the artwork is that it definitely extends the story and adds to the humour of the text. Seeing the true identity of the “ferocious dragons” is fun. Similarly, it is fun to see that the boys’ “weaving of a spell” involves nothing more elaborate than pointing the “terrible monster” family cat toward a flock of birds. In this way, the artist and author have worked well together.
As with the artwork, the text lacks detail. This is to be expected with a story limited to less than a hundred words. Indeed, the lack of detail in the text is excusable because of the obviously deliberate intention of keeping the text to a minimum. This does, however, further necessitate extra detail in the illustrations—to fill in the gaps left by the scant text.
Despite a brief text, it is pleasing to see Sharon Jennings has carefully selected her words. Inclusion of words such as “ferocious,” “terrible,” “trickery,” “courageous,” and “conquered” all evoke powerful visual images and add to the reading experience.
Children will enjoy the playful nature of the book and will easily relate to the protagonist with a sweet tooth and an active imagination.
Recommended with reservations.
Gregory Bryan teaches language and literacy courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.