CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 18 . . . . January 15, 2016
In her first children's literature publication, Julie Pearson collaborates with Quebec graphic artist Manon Gauthier to present the charming tale of Elliot which is said to be inspired from Pearson's own life as an adoptive mother. Elliot was originally released in French in 2014 to positive reviews and is now being made available for the first time in English. The touching story recounts the experiences of a young rabbit named Elliot whose parents are, sadly, quite uncertain of how to raise him and meet his needs. When a social worker arrives at the house to bring Elliot to a new family, Elliot is initially quite frightened; yet, gradually, he begins to adapt to his new surroundings and adoptive parents. After some time, Elliot's biological parents are permitted to take him home again, but when the same problematic issues arise, Elliot soon finds himself in the home of a second adoptive family where, once more, he must grow accustomed to the new sights, smells, and sounds of an unfamiliar environment. Although Elliot's parents often come to visit him, it becomes apparent that they will not be able to properly care for him in the future. The heartwarming conclusion sees Elliot being escorted one final time to his "forever, forever" adoptive family who welcome him with open arms and instinctively know how to care for his every physical and emotional need.
The illustrations in Elliot are beautifully designed using a simple collage format and soft neutral tones. Gauthier's pencil lines and detailed sketching are clearly visible throughout, adding a delightfully innocent and child-like feel to the book. The text flows effortlessly from beginning to end and offers repetitive passages which young children will unquestionably enjoy reciting aloud. Pearson creatively inserts small coloured portions of text near the conclusion of the story to emphasize specific messages and the celebratory emotions associated with Elliot's arrival in his forever home. Pearson's decision to include rabbit, rather than human, characters is ingenious as the presence of the rabbits provide a gentle, comforting touch to an otherwise emotionally difficult theme.
Since relatively few picturebooks currently exist that offer an intimate glimpse into the foster child system, Elliot is a much welcomed and necessary literary contribution. Children who have undergone experiences similar to those of Elliot will undoubtedly enjoy having a story and character that they can easily identify with. This book would be a valuable contribution to any primary classroom, particularly those including students who reside in foster homes. A simple yet powerful tale of hope, love, and belonging, Elliot tugs on the heartstrings and leaves readers with a heightened appreciation of the courage and resiliency of foster children and their families.
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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