CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 22. . . .February 13, 2015
Like all phoenixes, just hatched Flare does not have any parents. Flare is happy to sing and teach himself how to fish and how to fly. Flare’s guardians, Sun, Wind, and Cloud, notice that Flare never cries; in fact, Flare is unusually resistant to crying. In turn, Cloud, Wind, and Sun each try to teach Flare that it is okay to cry sometimes. “I am tough. I am strong. I do not cry,” Flare declares until the Sun shows Flare a baby bird with a broken wing. When Flare weeps out of compassion, his tears magically heal the broken wing, and Flare changes his song to “I am tough. I am strong. And sometimes I cry!”
The short, declarative sentences of the book lend themselves to being read aloud. Adults reading to children will find reading with emotion and a sense of character comes naturally from the sentences and the illustrations, and young readers will be able to decipher the sentences without losing track of the meaning.
Cloud, Wind, and Sun’s attempts to teach Flare about crying is reminiscent of Aesop’s fable of the sun and the wind. Wind and Cloud take a direct approach (“this is what crying is like”) using an exertion of force which Flare resists. Sun, on the other hand, succeeds in teaching Flare to cry by using gentleness: Sun leads Flare to a baby bird whose tears of pain cause Flare to cry of his own will.
The characters are charming with clear cut desires and emotions. The cause of Flare’s tears is particularly beautiful. Flare cries not out of self pity or frustration but out of compassion and empathy for the baby bird. Wind and Cloud’s well intentioned attempts fail yet Sun succeeds because Sun focuses not on the experience of crying but on the reason for it. Flare weeps out of love and discovers not only what it is to cry but that tears can be healing. In Flare’s case, magically so – as any Harry Potter fan knows, phoenix tears have remarkable healing powers.
The watercolour and (I think) pencil illustrations are joyful and vibrantly colourful. Warm colours that don’t quite stay within the lines give a sense of life full to the bursting point. The characters’ emotions come across loud and clear through facial expressions and distinct body language which interpret and add humour to the story. Each character has features that are recognizable and mobile, and the emotions in each situation leap off the page. Cloud screws up its face when it cries on Flare and seems to scratch its head in puzzlement when Flare remains obstinate, for instance. The words are sweet, and the illustrations will keep parents smiling through re re re reads of Flare.
Janet Eastwood recently graduated with a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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.