CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 26. . . .March 13, 2015
Work and More Work.
Linda Little. Illustrated by Óscar T. Pérez.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.), $16.95 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-55498-383-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-384-1 (pdf).
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
The well-known simpleton Jack went off with a cow and came back with a handful of magic beans. Tom aims higher and has more success in this original folktale from Groundwood Press.
Tom feels stuck toiling away at the family farm where there is nothing but “work and more work”. His parents are not encouraging and barely look up from their tasks when he says he wants to see what is in the town.
On the next market day, Tom tied a wee loaf and a bit of cheese into a bundle, kissed his mother and father and set off down the road. By and by, he caught a ride on a hay wagon loaded down for market. Soon one road met another, and they passed a church and a forge and a mill, and then there were sheep bleating and people hawking their wares.
“Buy my pots,” sang out a boy with a scraggly puppy at his heels.
“Buy my tarts,” sang out a woman in a yellow apron.
Already Tom has seen more of the outside world than he has in his whole life!
A taste of town makes Tom want to see the city, and a bargeman takes him there. It’s a lively scene: “Tom had never seen such a hustle and bustle!”
Tom arrives at the waterfront where his imagination is caught by the sight of the magnificent sailing ships in port. He decides then and there to extend his travels by signing on to go to sea.
Ocean travel leads Tom to many lands: China, where “men hoisted brightly painted tea boxes, one dangling from each end of their shoulder yokes, and hauled them to the ship”; India, where spices and indigo dye “the color of fair sailing” await. In Ceylon, he observes “the cinnamon peelers sat cross-legged on their mats. They hummed as they peeled thin quills of soft inner bark from cinnamon branches”.
At last Tom heads for home. Debarking from the ship and retracing his steps past the city, back through the town (“that now seemed very tiny and quiet after all his adventures”), he arrives at the farm again where his parents, much aged, welcome him and listen to his tales of travel.
Even though Tom has experienced so many things, his descriptions of the wonders of the world do not impress his home-bound mother and father. For, although he summarizes what he has seen by saying, “Everywhere in the world people are busy making beautiful things”, their responses reflect the mindset of those with no dreams of a broader horizon:
“Just as I thought,” his father said.
“I told you so,” his mother said. “Wherever you go – just work and more work.”
In a style squarely in the British oral tradition, Linda Little’s rich language leads readers on a wonderful odyssey of sights and sounds. The book is illustrated by European artist Óscar T. Pérez. The mannerist human figures and rich background detail, all in sepia tones, help bring to life this story of mid-19th century life.
A nice double spread at the end offers background information about the tools and jobs in the story and the things Tom discovered on his ocean journey.
A delightful book for storytellers and younger independent readers.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
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