________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 18 . . . . January 16, 2015


If I Wrote a Book About You.

Stephany Aulenback. Illustrated by Denise Holmes.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-927018-46-0.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Wu.

**** /4


If I Wrote a Book About You is a sweet (but not overly so) monologue that a doting mother delivers on an ordinary day she spends with her child. In every situation she finds herself in with her daughter, the mother observes a winsome characteristic in her daughter that is then textually inserted in their surroundings and disguised in the everyday objects. Given the book's candy pink and robin's eggshell blue colour palette, it could fall more within the niche of a mother-daughter read aloud, though it does not need to be restricted as such.

internal art      This picture book exemplifies the alchemy of text and illustration done right as Aulenback's simple declarations pop with surprise and whimsy through Holmes' slightly retro, cartoon-like characters and line drawings. With a homespun simplicity, the story begins, "If I wrote a book about you and how wonderful you are, I would write it everywhere." The mother proceeds to do exactly that, describing how she would use the branches of trees to say the child is captivating, or "perfect" with the sand on the beach, until every situation the two find themselves in is an opportunity for the mother to re imagine the world as refracted through the lens of her child experiencing it with joy and candour. Aulenback and Holmes transform the quotidian into moments of wonder for both the mother and child. The variations on a theme have a soothing quality to them so that what the story lacks in narrative drive is more than made up for with its imaginative refrains, lovingly rendered into illustrations by Holmes, giving the child a lulling reassurance of the tenderness and constancy of a mother's love.

      The ending of the story also signals the end of a long day between the unnamed mother and child. While the mother readies her child for bed, she reminds the child of how lovable she is, with the word spelled out with the child's freckles. In turn, the wrinkles on the mother's face spell out to the child that "you are loved." The last spread repeats the opening words of the book, with a subtle variation: "If I wrote a book about you, I would write it everywhere, and it would tell all the world, and all the world would tell... how wonderful you are." As the jacket flap says, the book's message for the child is how beloved she is; the book's message for the mother is how the world is transformed when "a child makes you experience the world differently." The book succeeds in doing just that.

      If I Wrote a Book About You is an altogether charming picture read aloud, pitched toward the dual audience of adult reader and child listener. Without a distinct narrative, the story narrowly misses being overly repetitive through the delightful allure of the illustrations fully realizing the potential of the text. Since the adjectives used in the text are also found in each spread, a child reader may enjoy finding the word in the pictures, whether it is spelled out on a ribbon of road or in cracker crumbs on a plate. No doubt, If I Wrote a Book About You is a story that will feature in many a parent and child bedtime routine and is perfect as a gift book for any parent and any young child in your life.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Wu is a teen services librarian working for Surrey Libraries in BC.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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