________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 36 . . . . May 18, 2012


Dear Flyary.

Dianne Young. Illustrated by John Martz.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2012.
320 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-448-7.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Saeyong Kim.

*** /4



Dear Flyary,

Gladdy dropday to me! Finally – old enough to have my own spaceship! First thing this waker, I went out and bought a brand new Model 7. … Just wait till everyone at the Binkler Factory sees me fly up in this! They’ll be tan with envy.

… My co-jobber Nithrak (we call him Nega-rak) thinks I should have gotten an upfit for my spaceship instead of a noteymaker. He read in Sharp Ship that some Model 7s were prone to making weird noises.

Dear Flyary is the diary of the alien Frazzle Pattzer who receives the journal from his grandfather on his birthday as part of a family tradition. The flyary is used for recording one’s experiences with one’s first spaceship (Frazzle’s great-great-grandfather kept a “drivary”), which Frazzle faithfully does. Frazzle’s first spaceship is a “viewtiful” brand-new Model 7, which Frazzle is delighted with and his co-workers admire. As time goes by, however, the spaceship develops some odd hisses and ticking noises, which Frazzle is assured by his mechanic don’t affect the vehicle’s performance in any way – until it suddenly stops in the middle of the flyway. Frazzle must get a new engine for his spaceship, which is now noiseless, but Frazzle has become used to the noises his old engine used to make and so the mechanic, Wurpitz, tampers slightly with the new engine until it starts making the same odd noises as the old one. Frazzle is happy.

internal art     As the excerpt shows, the language in Dear Flyary has been changed (to alien conversational language) in a way that makes it engaging to guess the meaning of the words from the context and from the illustrations, which often have hints that are not in the main text. To facilitate this, both the text and the illustrations are kept to easily recognizable motifs such as the boss who can’t remember his employees’ names correctly, the greasy automobile (spaceship) salesman with a gold (green) tooth, sporting events and celebratory parades, spending the night at a friend’s place watching TV, etc. As an example, when Frazzle receives his “dropday” present, his “oldpop” is sitting in a chair sporting a moustache, fluffy grey hair, a bow tie and suspenders, while Frazzle’s mother (skirt, curly hair) and father (button-down shirt, arm around mother’s shoulders) are standing by affectionately watching the two, accompanied by the family dog. There is a piece of cake on the nearby table, with a total of six candles on the cake and the tabletop, and empty boxes together with an action figure, a ball, and a miniature red spaceship (the Model 7 Frazzle later buys). It is easy to guess from looking at the illustration and the text (“gladdy dropday to me!” which brings to mind the traditional birthday song) that ‘dropday’ and ‘oldpop’ are birthday and grandfather, respectively. The overall look of the Photoshop illustrations combines a cute, friendly “space alien” look with some nostalgic elements of perhaps the 1960’s (mechanic’s garage displays what looks like a lava lamp, on a shelf above a clunky radio; Frazzle ‘wails’ “What’s new, Tarkelby?” on his snilkum), rendered in shades of green and orange.

      Frazzle gives two different impressions to the reader, perhaps due to the different structure of his (alien) society. On the one hand, he is clearly in the adult position of productive laborer in that he has a job, a boss, and co-workers; he buys and pilots his own spaceship, and spends the night at a friend’s house without needing to ask permission. On the other hand, he is first seen having what seems to be his sixth birthday, surrounded by a small child’s toys, and is given permission to learn how to play his first musical instrument sometime after buying his first spaceship – the emphasis on first experiences suggests a young person, as do the large, carefully printed letters and childlike drawings that are on the ‘This book belongs to…’ sticker that is on the first page of the flyary, a feature often found in young children’s books. Slightly confusing, but perhaps Frazzle’s society works that way. An interesting and cheerful read.


Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.

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

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