________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 28. . . .March 22, 2013


Oy, Feh, So?

Cary Fagan. Illustrated by Gary Clement.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2013.
40 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-55498-148-9.

Kindergarten-grade two / Ages 5-7.

Review by Stacey Matson.

***½ /4



Aunt Essy sat down in the big armchair with a sigh. Aunt Chanah groaned as she lowered herself onto one end of the sofa. Uncle Sam winced as he dropped onto the other end.

“Oy,” said Aunt Essy.

“Feh,” said Aunt Chanah.

“So?” said Uncle Sam.

That was all they ever said!

Our mother came in to greet them.

“Such beautiful weather,” Mom said.

“Oy,” said Aunt Essy. “As if I haven’t seen nicer.”

“Feh,” said Aunt Chanah. “It’ll probably rain.”

“So?” said Uncle Sam. “Is the weather going to make me young again?”


Oy, Feh, So? tells the story that so many of us have lived: visits by the old aunts and uncles who are just no fun. Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah, and Uncle Sam are old folks that come in, sit down, and complain. Every visit seems the same, but this Sunday, the kids in the book try valiantly to get a reaction from their relatives in imaginative ways. Robbers attack, a hungry dragon arrives, space invaders descend upon the living room, but to no avail. That is, until the kids get frustrated, act out, and find a common ground that the whole family can enjoy.

internal art     Fagan has hit on a universal theme with Oy, Feh, So? and pulls off a charming read for young children. Every kid has had to suffer through boring adult conversations or been told to be polite to someone who just seems too old to be fun anymore. Fagan shows us that not all adults are stuffy, and that even old people can have a sense of humour about themselves. Overall, Fagan shows the reader that family bonds can be made stronger when you least expect it. By using a lot of dialogue and repetition of the main phrases, Fagan has made this a great book for reading aloud, and the aunts’ and uncle’s responses to the events the kids enact will evoke a chuckle from parents as well.

      Cary Fagan’s dry sense of humour comes through the text, but it is brought to life through Gary Clement’s playful, full-colour illustrations. Since the entire story takes place in one room, a less talented illustrator might pull the story down and make it drag, but Clement’s broad animated feel brings the story off the page. The pen and ink and watercolour illustrations match perfectly with the tone of the story. The perspective of the room shifts with every page, and Clement makes different things the focus for each double-paged spread. Using a full-page bleed for all the illustrations also helps the reader feel as though s/he is in the room with all the characters, and this technique gives life to the stationary setting of the story. By using block lettering to make the three title words dominate each page, the book design complements the repetition found in the text. As a whole, the book is well-crafted, with details extending outside of the story onto the endpapers, title page, and publishing information, and I loved how the story taking place inside the house was bookended with full-page illustrations of the arrival and departure of the relatives, extending the story beyond the beginning and ending of the text.

Highly Recommended.

Stacey Matson has worked in educational and interpretive programming in cultural/historic sites across Canada. She recently finished her MA in children’s literature at the University of British Columbia.

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

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