________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 36. . . .May 20, 2016


Skunk on a String.

Thao Lam.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2016.
40 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-131-2.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Christina Quintiliani.

**** / 4



Skunk on a String is a high-flying wordless adventure that effortlessly carries readers along on a comically amusing, visual journey. Through her vibrant artwork composed primarily of lively collages of textured and coloured layers of paper, Thao Lam ignites the imagination and encourages children’s individualized interpretations of illustrations through her textless approach to storytelling. Skunk on a String offers an intimate glimpse into a rather unusual day in the life of a skunk who, after accidentally becoming attached to the string of a large red balloon at a parade, floats helplessly from location to location, taking in the sites of the world around him and enthusiastically engaging with the human and non-human characters he encounters along the way. The skunk’s airborne voyage carries him through urban landscapes and across construction zones where he startles unexpected people going about their daily routines. A sudden change in altitude finds the protagonist drifting into a local zoo where he intermingles with animal residents and has a humorous encounter with an elephant. After an eventful landing inside the back of a garbage truck, the skunk soon finds himself transported to the sea where a brief underwater escapade sees him interacting with a group of rather astonished sea life. Finally, after drifting across dry, cactus-covered desert lands, the skunk arrives at a carnival theme park where he successfully dislodges himself from the balloon. After some brief reflection, he quickly realizes just how much he already misses travelling and proceeds to acquire a large cluster of balloons which carry him back up into the air towards an implied second, fun-filled journey.

      While Skunk on a String follows a simple storyline, it also aims to challenge children’s comprehension skills as it requires a sound understanding of illustration sequencing and the use of framed insets, particularly on pages where multiple illustrations are included. Lam’s picturebook also fosters inference making as children are invited to make ongoing predictions about where the skunk will be carried to next and what will happen when he arrives there. Skunk on a String is an interactive delight that delivers joy and wit to the wordless experience. A perfect fit for younger audiences and those in search of an entertaining and unexpected surprise at every turn of the page.

Highly Recommended.

Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON., where she is researching children’s literature.

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

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