________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015


Down Here.

Valerie Sherrard. Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover & PDF (Follet and Overdrive), $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55455-327-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55455-826-1 (PDF).

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Meredith Cleversey.

**** /4



I am good at building.
I can build ANYTHING!

There is only one problem.

Mom does not clap or tell me, “Nice job, Jamie!”
She says grouchy things like, “Goodness gracious, sakes alive! LOOK at this mess!”

Every time!


Jamie is a master builder who can create anything, whether it’s a rocket ship or a topsy-turvy roller coaster. But Jamie’s mother doesn’t appreciate these talents. She thinks Jamie only makes a mess, until Jamie helps her see things from a different perspective, changing her viewpoint and showing her how magical the “mess” really is!

     Down Here, written by Valerie Sherrard and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant, is a fantastic story about the power of imagination and the importance of seeing things from a different perspective. Jamie (referred to here as ‘he’, though the story, in both its text and illustrations, keeps Jamie’s gender non-specific) loves to create. He wants to be a master builder some day, making magnificent castles or mazes of ingenious design. But while his mother always praises his siblings for their talents, Jamie never receives the recognition he feels he deserves. His mother doesn’t see the twisting tunnels of his maze or the fire-breathing dragon his castle keeps at bay. She only sees a messy house worthy of a scolding. So one day, Jamie decides to stand up on the furniture and look down at his creations from the viewpoint of his mother. When he does, he sees the same mess she gets mad at him for making, and he finally understands why she’s so annoyed by his building. Once he realizes what it is his mother sees, Jamie brings her down to his level so she can experience things from his point of view, and there she discovers the magic of his imaginative world.

     Jamie finds a creative, and positive, solution for dealing with the misunderstanding between him and his mother. Instead of simply whining or pouting about his mother’s lack of appreciation, Jamie thinks critically and resolves to see things from his mother’s viewpoint. He climbs up on the furniture so he can look down on his buildings from her height, and eyes the living room as she would be likely to do. Only after he experiences the situation from her perspective does Jamie then realize he needs to bring his mother down to play with him on the floor in order to get her seeing things from his point of view, too. It’s a great strategy, one clever in its concept and sweet in its intention.

      Down Here is a marvellous book for adults and children to share. Jamie has a strong imagination, and the frustration he feels over his mother’s inability to pretend is a sentiment to which many young readers will relate. But it’s the mother’s role in the story which makes this a perfect read for adults as well. Jamie’s mother has seemingly outgrown her ability to imagine and play. She’s more focussed on keeping a clean house than she is on encouraging her child’s creative skills. When he brings her down to play with him on the floor, however, the world of Jamie’s imagination comes alive, and she discovers how talented he really is. It’s a wonderful moment of bonding for these two characters and a good reminder for children and adults alike to take the time to see the world from other perspectives.

     The mixed media illustrations by Isabelle Malenfant feature soft shades of pencil crayon, a gentle and childlike medium perfectly befitting the story’s narrator. Malefant’s illustrations do a good job of highlighting both points of view in the story by showcasing the splendour of Jamie’s creations, and then deconstructing the imaginative worlds to show the same scene as viewed by the mother. For example, when Jamie describes his roller coaster, the picture shows a twisting track with a racing car. On the next page, when his mother complains about the mess, the twisting track is a twisted blanket, and Jamie’s coaster car is really a sled teetering on the edge of an overturned sofa. Through images full of texture, movement, and whimsy, the illustrations help readers see how Jamie and his mother perceive the situation.

     Down Here is a positive and inclusive read for both children and adults, highlighting the wonder of imagination and the importance of looking at the world from different points of view.

Highly Recommended.

Meredith Cleversey is a librarian in Cambridge, ON. She loves to read, write and live in a world of pure imagination.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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