________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


Tales From Parc la Fontaine. (The Parc la Fontaine series).

Roslyn Schwartz.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2006.
48 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (lib. bd.).
ISBN 1-55451-043-0 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55451-044-9 (lib. bd.).

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


It was like any other day when Trevor decided to escape...

to take a walk in Parc la Fontaine...

To act wild.

The author/illustrator of “The Mole Sisters” books is back with a new series for preschoolers, this one revolving around small creatures that live near or in a public park in the middle of a city. The book has three brief fable-like tales featuring anthropomorphized creatures. The first, “Trevor and the French Fry,” finds Trevor, a blue budgie, escaping from his cage and going to the park where, as the excerpt notes, he acts “wild.” However, for this caged bird, acting wild is actually pretty tame and consists of little more than Trevor's twirling about. Obviously, this is not Trevor's first escape, because, when he encounters a fedora-wearing mustachioed worm named Willie, the two already know each other. Trevor is delighted by an unexpected culinary treat when some unseen person throws away a french fry, but, before he's able to enjoy it, he finds himself in a three-way fight with a pair of always-hungry seagulls. Not surprisingly, the little blue bird loses the battle, and, feeling dispirited, Trevor decides to go home. As he leaves, Willie says, “See you next week.”
internal art

     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:


“Cheer up, Fiona.”

”It looks like rain.”

     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.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

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

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