________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 28 . . . . March 21, 2014


The Memory Stone.

Anne Louise MacDonald. Illustrated by Joanne Ouellet.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2013.
24 pp., stapled pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-442-8.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Ellen Wu.

***½ /4



[Laura] ran back to the porch. On the top porch step perched a grey rock, a white rock, and a reddish brown rock.

"I want...," she muttered and kicked the grey rock across the lawn.

"To go...," she said out loud, and kicked the white rock into the hedge.

"HOME!" she hollered and-


Aunt Pat snatched up the reddish brown rock and glared. Then she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Where are the other two?" she asked quietly.

"Why?" Laura pouted. "They're just dumb old rocks."

"No....they're Memory Stones."

"What's a Memory Stone?" asked Laura.

"Find them and I'll tell you," her aunt said.

Laura searched the lawn and rummaged under the hedge until she found the two stones.

Aunt Pat ran her fingertips over the grey stone and sighed. "A spring day."

She held the white stone up to the light and smiled. "A walk in the woods."

She touched the reddish brown stone to her cheek and laughed. "My best friend."

"That makes no sense," Laura grumbled.

"Hmmm," said Aunt Pat. "Then I'll have to show you. Come with me."

Laura is on her first sleepover away from home at her Aunt Pat's, and it's not going so well. No nightlight comforts Laura at bedtime as Aunt Pat throws open the curtains to let in the "creepy" shadows made by the moonlight instead. No cornflakes and milk for breakfast, but rather Aunt Pat and her mom's favourite breakfast when they were kids--scrambled eggs and molasses (too yucky for Laura). No TV after breakfast either, since Aunt Pat doesn't even own a set, but, instead, she encourages Laura to do what she did as a child with Laura's mom--go outside and "chase sneaky weeds." A bumblebee and spider cut short Laura's garden exploits, and she retreats to the safety of the porch where she proceeds to throw a tantrum.

internal art      As the excerpt above shows, Aunt Pat wisely decides to show Laura what a memory stone is by giving her a day at the beach that's worth remembering. In between creating rivers in the sand and exploring tidal pools along the shoreline, Laura finds stones to bring to Aunt Pat. "Is this a Memory Stone?" she asks of each, but Aunt Pat wants Laura to find out on her own. Before they leave, Laura idly slips a yellow and blue stone into her pocket and goes to bed that night without a qualm. When Laura's mom picks her up at the end of the weekend, readers learn that she is, of course, Aunt Pat's best friend since they share the same memory stone. And Laura discovers she's found her very first memory stone after all, one that captures a perfect day at the beach.

      Like the story itself, MacDonald's quiet, lyrical prose shows rather than tells, a perfect length for a read-aloud for the kindergartener(s) in your life. The Memory Stone may have didactic underpinnings on how a child learns to be open to new ideas and experiences, but MacDonald avoids the pitfalls of preachiness, gently guiding readers along with Laura to find out how they, too, can discover their own memory stones. Laura also forms a bond with her aunt and mother, sharing a secret that ties them to each other and the memories they create together and apart.

      While the text is pitch-perfect, the illustrations hold slightly less appeal for me. Ouellet uses a palette of more saturated and subdued hues, which, while varied in colour, do not seem bright and airy enough to convey the beauty of the seascape Laura and Aunt Pat explore together. The characters' expressions can be indistinct at times since the features are mere dots drawn the face, though much is conveyed through the way the figure of Laura slouches in a sulk or crouches with deep curiosity over her beach finds. The artwork succeeds better in the domestic shots of Aunt Pat's home as the quirky decor reflect her distinctive outlook on life. Nevertheless, the design of the book, with illustrations bleeding fully to the edges of each spread, convey expansiveness in an otherwise small paperback.

      A reissue of a book first published by PEI publisher Ragweed in 1998 and again in 2003, The Memory Stone evokes a beautiful maritime setting, depicts caring and perceptive adults and introduces a curious (if at times obstreperous) child to a new way of appreciating and commemorating experiences. In a time where virtual realms could sometimes overshadow the world it serves to represent, I can't convey how wonderful it is to have a story which celebrates the way tangible objects are used to make deep and meaningful connections between shared memories and the people we care about most.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Wu is the teen services librarian at Surrey Libraries in BC.

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

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