________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007


Toby Laughs Last. (First Novels; 59).

Jean Lemieux. Illustrated by Sophie Casson. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2006.
62 pp., pbk. & cl, $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-88780-716-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-88780-720-6 (bound).

Subject Heading:
Emotions-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


Hooray! This time, we had liftoff! The kite rose straight up into the sky. It was so high that I felt I was up there too, flying along with the sparrows and crows. Then it started veering to the left again and fell down and got stuck in a tree.

After trying fourteen times to free it, Marianne and I agreed that there was only one solution. Someone would have to go up there and get the kite unstuck. In order to do that, someone would have to climb the tree and crawl out on a branch. The branch looked to be about as big around as my leg.

It also looked to be about ten metres off the ground.


Toby is worried about his laugh. Not only does it hurt to laugh, but his “seat of laughter” has been removed. Toby fears he’ll never laugh again.

     Toby is an inquisitive eight-year-old boy, a boy who turns to the dictionary when he needs additional information. He is knowledgeable about tree fungus, Isaac Newton, and universal gravitation. However, it wasn’t curiosity that has him climb up a very tall tree. The reason he climbed the tree was because of Marianne; he wanted to impress her by rescuing his own kite. Vanity overrode his fear, and, because he was focused on impressing Marianne, he overlooked signs that might have prevented his subsequent fall.      

     After Toby’s fall, his story continues in the hospital. As his body mends, Toby tries to laugh again. But Toby doesn’t go through this experience alone. His family is by his side, and he does have friends who come to visit. While recuperating at the hospital and at home, Toby is made to feel comfortable. In his own way, his brother even tries to help Toby. But it’s Dr. Bigelow who brings Toby close to laughter. After the doctor leaves Toby with a happy thought, smiles and real laughter seem to come much easier.

     Jean Lemieux, a doctor and an award-winning author, and Sophie Casson, an illustrator who spent many years in Africa, have created a book that can comfort and entertain. Although Toby is drawn wearing casts and he’s seen surrounded by doctors at times, this shouldn’t be frightening to young children. The serene black and white illustrations show Toby being cared for at home and in the hospital. Entertainment comes from Toby’s misunderstanding of a reading in the dictionary. For Toby, the laugh comes when he sees a technique that is all too familiar to him.

     Toby Laughs Last is an important story about how serious accidents can be.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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