________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 19 . . . . January 23, 2015


Nancy Knows.

Cybčle Young.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2014.
40 pp., hardcover & epub, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-482-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-483-1 (epub).

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Age 5-7.

Review by Joanie Proske.

**** /4

Usually elephants never forget...but Nancy the elephant has forgotten something very important. We have all fallen victim to similar situations – misplacing our glasses, a favourite toy, or forgetting what we needed upstairs – so we are immediately captivated by the little elephant’s efforts to retrieve her own lost memory. However, the real fun really begins as Nancy Knows shifts from this introductory predicament to a more artistic focus.

     Each page features whimsically sketched outlines of our elephant in a variety of endearing poses as she tries different strategies to recapture her memory. Collaged within her charming graphic penciled outlines are intricate Japanese-style paper sculptures designed to represent Nancy’s thoughts. Cybčle Young has fashioned these unique handmade sculptures as a fantastical means to delve into Nancy’s world. The reader can’t help but be amazed as a junk collection of paper punch-outs, rolled tubes, and torn remnants evolves into the recognizable forms of shoes, dresses, wheelbarrows and bicycles. We also learn more about Nancy’s interests and activities with each turn of the page. Some of these objects are easily recognizable, and others challenge the reader to guess what they might possibly be.

     The picture book portrays Nancy’s thoughts as both organized and chaotic arrangements of items and invites the reader onto the pages to explore Nancy’s quest with her. The little elephant first attempts a logical approach to retrieving her lost memory by using classification and association... “she remembers things she knows...things with wheels. Things like clothes, places to relax. And places to go.” Nancy then tries to recall her important memory by looking at the problem from different angles... “She remembers things one way. Then another. Backwards. And forwards. All in neat rows. Or in a jumbled-up mess.” She explores her senses by using her ears, stomach, nose and even her heart to scour her thoughts – but none of these strategies work. Finally Nancy gives up, relaxes, and stops working so hard at trying to remember. “But Nancy still knows she’s forgotten something. Something important... Tired of trying to remember, Nancy stops thinking altogether. And that’s when she remembers!” And, as it often happens, suddenly the memory of the important thing she needs to remember pops back into Nancy’s mind!

     Memory serves as a simple theme throughout, and the reader will certainly not easily forget author Cybčle Young’s considerable artistic abilities. She is an accomplished artist with her work featured in galleries from New York to Vancouver. Her illustrative talents also won her the 2011 Governor General's Award for Illustration for her debut picture book, Ten Birds.

     Nancy Knows is definitely a book to enjoy with a young child sitting on your lap – to be astonished and delighted by the fantastic illustrations and share stories of things forgotten and eventually remembered. However, it is also a highly recommended addition to a school library collection. Primary teachers would find countless opportunities to connect story elements to their curriculum – including math attribute explorations, classification work, art lessons, and the mindful reflections taught in the MindUP emotional and social learning skills program. Repeated readings will lead to delight in the mutual realization that forgetting things, including the most important things, happen to everyone – even little elephants named Nancy.

Highly Recommended.

Joanie Proske is a teacher-librarian in the Langley School District, Langley, BC.

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

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