CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 32. . . .April 24, 2015
Avis Dolphin is the captivating, and imaginative, story of young Avis Dolphin’s seven day voyage along the Atlantic ocean aboard the Lusitania, or the Big Lusy. Accompanied by two young women, Hilda and Sarah (nurses who worked at her mother’s home for the sick and aged) Avis heads by train from Canada to the New York City dock where the trio, and approximately 1,955 others, board a ship headed for England. However, the year is 1915, and fear looms among the passengers of the Lusy; travellers are afraid of the alarming threats of war described in the newspaper headlines that suggest German U-boats could torpedo the Lusy as it approaches England. Avis, too, is anxious about the wartime journey, but also about missing her mother in Canada, and starting school and life anew in England with her grandparents.
Together, Frieda Wishinsky and Willow Dawson tell an incredible story of unlikely friendship, travelling during wartime, and, most importantly, hope. I truly relished reading the predominantly wordless graphic novel-style story-within-the-story. What an incredibly enchanting feature to accompany the already enjoyable narrative! To situate the story-within-the-story feature of Avis Dolphin: Avis befriends the knowledgeable and charming Professor Ian Holbourn, Laird of Foula, who takes the young girl under his wing and tells her about the beautiful island of Foula, including a thrilling story involving a mermaid, a girl named Jill, the bogeyman, and a giant. Each time Avis and the Professor meet, the professor continues to share an episode of his Foula story, and Avis is left to imagine what will happen next on the incredibly luscious, remote island. This story-within-a-story is bursting with flora and fauna, adventure, treasure, and fear. The graphic novel-style episodes of Avis Dolphin provide our protagonist with an opportunity to escape fears of U-boats and leaving home, and transport her to a magical place. Dawson’s enchanting black inked panels take readers on a secondary journey aboard the Lusy, an imaginative journey. Alongside Avis, readers take on the role of storyteller to narrate the wordless panels.
I appreciate that the story is followed by an author’s note that provides readers with historical information about World War I while also describing the historical inspiration for the character of Avis Dolphin and Professor Holbourn.
I would highly recommend Avis Dolphin for Canadian school and public library collections. This story will appeal to children interested in historical fictional, World War I, graphic novel-style illustrations, and imaginative storytelling. This is an incredibly engaging story.
Natalie Schembri is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.
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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.