CM . . . .
Volume I Number 13 . . . . September 8, 1995
Sticks and Stone
Illustrated by Dominique Jolin.
Richmond Hill: Scholastic, 1995.
24pp, paper, $5.99.
Kindergarten - grade 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Review by A. Edwardsson
When she was five, Gwendolyn-Joy Morrison-Power began to find her name a
bit awkward. She was often making new friends, at the park, at the skating
rink or at swimming class. Every time, they ended up asking the same
question: "What's your name?" And when she answered Gwendolyn-Joy
Morrison-Power, their eyes got big and round.
Poor kid. At age three, Gwendolyn-Joy Morrison-Power "thought she had a
pretty good name. . . . It wasn't a baby name." But at the tender age of
four and half, she encounters Jonathan Bain, the terror of the daycare.
Jonathan teases everyone else about their name with rhyming insults, but
Gwendolyn-Joy's stumps him. So far so good, until she can't fit her whole
moniker at the bottom of her kindergarten artwork; Jonathan seizes the
moment, and from then on, there's no stopping him.
In grade one, her full name printed out at the bottom a test paper resembles
"a train that had jumped its tracks and was falling over a cliff. So
Gwendolyn-Joy Morrison-Power threw a hairy fit." She rejects possible
solutions -- using initials would make her name look like a disease, and
she can't decide what part of her name she could leave out: "Gwendolyn"
is too pretty to drop, and without the "Joy," "her name would be as
boring as a rainy Saturday." (Though why the pretty name would be boring
isn't clear.) Here and elsewhere, word balloons that appear outside the
text give us a fun look at Gwen's personality -- "G.-J. M.-P., bleh!"
Finally in grade two things begin to improve. Her name seems
shorter when written rather than printed, and Jonathan Bain has grown up
and now has a crush on her.
Children with difficult names will be able to relate to
Gwendolyn-Joy's problems, and others can empathize with her plight.
Unfortunately, most readers will also have several questions.
Why isn't she on a first name basis with her teachers and
classmates? Couldn't her friends just call her Gwen? Is there
perhaps another Gwendolyn-Joy in the class so that everyone must use
her full name to avoid confusion? Do kindergartens really expect children
who have just learned to print to sign their full names, and if not, why is
this child torturing herself?
The premise of Sticks and Stones is entertaining, but
I wish our heroine had come up with a solution to her problems rather than
just grow out of them. Youngsters in kindergarten and grade one with
unwieldy names may not be satisfied with the "patience is a virtue"
Although the story is amusing and flows easily, there are several
puns that might be a bit sophisticated for the audience -- for example,
when Gwen is pondering which of her names to cut: "Power? That was her
father's name. Dad would say, `Absolutely not. You cannot cut the Power
like that!' " (She also has a nightmare about a butcher cutting her name like
a salami -- he murmurs "I'll do it quickly, you won't feel a thing.")
The illustrations by Dominique Jolin are delightful, and
reminiscent of the whimsical artwork of Babette Cole (The Trouble
with Mom). The characters' movements and emotions are clear and
scenes often include small, believable details, like the broken crayons on
the art table or the balding head of a male teacher. Only one image seems
out of sync: at age three, Gwen is shown expertly jumping through a
hopscotch grid, and nearby chalk suggests that she has drawn the perfectly
formed numbers on the sidewalk herself.
Sticks and Stones is the English translation of
Pierrette Dubé's original Nom de Nom!, which won an
award for excellence in Livrélus magazine. It is very similar in content to Kevin Henke's outstanding picture book Chrysanthemum. Sticks and Stones would be an
acceptable purchase, but Henke's work has a more rewarding ending.
Recommended with reservations.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
The Manitoba Library Association
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - September 8, 1995.
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