CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 1. . . .September 4, 2015
Once Upon a Line.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Magic in art-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Christina Quintiliani.
Reviewed from F&Gs.
Once Upon a Line is the latest literary contribution from highly acclaimed children’s author and illustrator Wallace Edwards. Sure to fascinate young readers and adults alike, this artistic masterwork remains true to the unique whimsical style that has won Edwards numerous awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award; the Children’s Choice Award from the International Reading Association for Alphabeasts and Monkey Business; the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award and Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award for Monkey Business; and the Junior Library Guild Award for The Cat’s Pajamas.
In Once Upon a Line, imagination takes center stage as Edwards generates endless possibilities for creative adventures in storytelling. The narrative begins with an account of Wally’s family’s discovery of their Great-Uncle George’s original paintings tucked inside a folder in an old steamer trunk that had long been stored away in the attic. It is alleged that Great-Uncle George, who believed that nearly every story originates from a single line of inspiration and a vivid imagination, used his enchanted pen from the East to sketch the beginnings of hundreds of paintings. Unfortunately, the illustrations which appear inside Once Upon a Line are said to be the sole surviving works of Great-Uncle George’s vast artistic collection. At the conclusion of the opening page of the book, readers are encouraged to locate the single line from the enchanted pen that appears camouflaged within every picture and to use their own imaginations to finish the incomplete narratives presented throughout the book. An “answer key” is offered at the back of the book to help identify exactly where each of the lines appears.
Edwards’ illustrations are a visual experience. A splendid array of vibrant colours, fanciful settings, and stunningly realistic characters capture and hold the reader’s attention, inviting one to look closer and carefully explore even the smallest of details. While younger children may initially be more captivated by the “hunt” for the line on each page than the actual illustrations themselves, second and third readings are sure to help draw them back into the pictures. Readers of all ages will appreciate the often humorous scenes and the charming facial expressions of the characters. Edwards cleverly presents just enough text on each page to spark children’s creativity.
ONCE UPON A LINE,
a mermaid found a mysterious object,
She thought that it might be...
Edwards’ work is an educator’s delight as it offers countless instructional opportunities in storytelling, creative writing, and visual arts. Children will unquestionably enjoy the interactive nature of the book and how it openly invites them to make the stories their own. Perhaps most importantly, Once Upon a Line allows children to recognize that even the grandest of ideas often begins from something rather small.
A wonderful addition to any classroom, school or home library, Once Upon a Line will most certainly appeal to a wide audience of readers for years to come.
Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate researching children’s literature at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON.
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