CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 12. . . .November 25, 2016
At first glance, Tomo Explores the World resembles a layout for a cartoon animation. Tomo, a young boy from a small island far to the north, doesn’t like fish and doesn’t want to be a fisherman like his father and grandfather. He loves to invent and wants to explore the world. When he accidentally discovers his great grandfather’s Adventure Journal which includes a giant map, blueprints and drawings of inventions for travel and an unfinished ocean discovery checklist, Tomo decides to complete this unfinished list. He begins with building a pedal controlled canoe with adaptations suggested by his friend Maya. Together they set off to find the first item on the list, a hair from a baby whale.
Inventions and explorations are exciting elements in an adventure story. The large colourful full-page illustrations will appeal to young readers. However, the complexity of the plot seems overly ambitious for a 30 page picture book. Tomo’s early inventions, such as a seesaw, a waterslide and a high five stick, are interesting, but their inspiration and purpose seem missing. The inventing piece of the story does come together when Maya suggests building things to use for travel and again when Tomo discovers blueprints in the Adventure Journal. At this point, however, the story becomes more complicated as the two children must construct the first travel invention, follow the map and then interpret the constellation clues in the night sky in order to locate a whale. Whereas the illustrations move the story along at a fast pace, the young reader might not fully grasp the meaning with the limited text provided. Furthermore, there seems to be some discrepancy in the depiction of time and place in the artwork. Occasionally the adults wear clothes suggesting colder temperatures since the island is located ‘far to the north’, but the children do not. The time reference of the pictures seems mixed; some appear more modern and others dated. Also, the style of and designs on some of the clothing and jewelry suggest cultural significance, but there is no textual reference explaining these illustrative details. Without textual cues, these visual details can be distracting or confusing.
Tomo Explores the World focuses on a child’s dreams. The story provide several possibilities the young reader can consider: nature studies, inventing, astronomy, creative problem solving and exploring. This visually intense picture book provides a young reader with considerable content to absorb. It could be a good read-aloud accompanied by guided questions and discussion to clarify some aspects of the content. Author Trevor Lai is an animator and CEO and creator of UP Studios. With an online animated trailer to the book as well as a planned television version, Tomo Explores the World might best be described as a television series storybook.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.