________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 39. . . .June 10, 2016


We Sang You Home.

Richard Van Camp. Illustrated by Julie Flett.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
26 pp., board book, pdf & epub, $9.95 (bb).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1178-2 (bb), ISBN 978-1-4598-1179-9 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1180-5 (epub).

Preschool / Birth-age 3.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***1/2 /4 Reviewed from f&g’s


We sang you from a wish
We sang you from a prayer


Board books can play many roles in a young child’s life, including the unintended one of becoming a temporary teething ring. In many cases, board books are used by parents and other adults as teaching tools. Consequently, a child can encounter the letters of the alphabet via Alligator, Bear, Crab: A Baby's ABC or the numbers from one to ten through Hamsters Holding Hands. They can learn to attach names to things they encounter (or will encounter) in their world via board books such as My Animal Book or A Parade of Puppies. Sing a Song of Mother Goose can acquaint them with a shared heritage of literature while Hugs can serve as an introduction to the concept of story. Perhaps most importantly, the use of board books can lead to babies and toddlers coming to associate books with positive feelings as they are being read to while sitting in the loving lap of the reader.

     We Sang You Home departs from the normal “functional” or “entertainment” purposes of board books, and its contents appear to be directed more at parents. At its core, We Sang You Home is a love letter from (a) parent(s) to his/her (their) child. Format-wise, each pair of facing pages consists of a text page and a page illustrated by Julie Flett. Richard Van Camp’s very brief poetic text, which eschews punctuation, consists of just one or two sentences per page. The book has no true plot though Flett’s simple but emotionally effective illustrations clearly indicate a passage of time. For instance, the opening illustration that accompanies the excerpt finds a couple sitting on a blanket under a waxing moon with the female holding a guitar. Amongst the ferns and trees, readers can see two adult rabbits on opposite sides of the page. The closing illustration, which is without text, essentially replicates the first, but now the moon is full, and the adults are joined on the blanket by a child. A single adult rabbit is accompanied by two kits and white flowers appear amongst the ferns.

     Both Van Camp’s words and Flett’s illustrations are economical, but We Sang You Home is not a quick read. Instead, each of the paired pages of text and illustration truly demands that the reader pause and reflect on the pages’ contents.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM‘s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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