CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006
The second story, “Fiona the Lonely Land Snail,” is a sad tale of impossible love. The text informs readers that Fiona was “on an a quest for true everlasting love,” but her friend Colin (whom the publisher's press release identifies as a silkworm but, to a Winnipegger, looks like a canker worm), knows that Fiona is about to repeat her annual error of falling in love with a baby caterpillar. Despite Colin's caution, once more Fiona falls in love with a caterpillar, only to have the object of her affection enter its chrysalis stage before emerging as a butterfly and “FLIT FLIT FLUTTER FLUTTER” out of Fiona's life forever. In a delightful ending, Colin says:
And Fiona is delighted by the rain because “It makes me slimy all over.”
Imagine if your entire life span consisted of but a single day. Such is the case for a little fly in “Angela's Day,” the slim book's final story. Angela's first act is to deal with her principal reason for living - to reproduce herself, and so “she laid a big pile of eggs.” Once that task was done, Fiona had to decide how she was going to spend the rest of her life. She travels with a group of bees, avoids becoming a meal for hungry birds, chats with a trio of ladybugs having a tea party and saves an insect caught in a spider's web, all before circling a lit park light and watching the stars emerge, their twinkling signaling the end of her day and her life. Schwartz emphasizes the brevity of Angela's life by significantly truncating the already brief text, thereby speeding up the rate by which this story can be read.
Schwartz's art work is rendered in coloured pencils, and the soft, muted colours work well with these gentle stories. With one exception, each pair of facing pages contains two to five illustrations with the text appearing below the pencil drawings. The book's horizontal format, with the illustrations normally being laid out in a linear format, reinforces the very young reader's connection with the left to right aspects of books.
Like the best of children's literature, the contents of Tales From Parc la Fontaine speak not just to the child listener/reader but also to the adult who is sharing the book with the pre or early reader. Temporarily escaping the constraints of one's day-to-day life, experiencing the emotional pain of unrequited love and looking back at how quickly life passes while questioning how well one has used that life are also the stuff of the adults who live outside Parc la Fontaine.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, 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.