CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 19. . . .January 27, 2017
Nina wants to fish, but her grandfather has always refused to take her. He finally agrees, on the condition that Nina carry her own weight once they set off. Nina’s day may not go exactly the way she expects, but the resulting lessons-- for both Nina and the old men living in her small fishing village-- are invaluable.
The message in Alma Fullerton’s Hand Over Hand is probably supposed to be simple: allow a child a chance to prove him or herself and then watch what he/she can do. In this deceptively complex 24-page book, Fullerton has filled her simple words, repeated phrases, and clear dialogue with the possibility for many interpretations. Children can achieve their goals. Girls can do anything they set their minds to. Be self-sufficient, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finish what you start. Don’t give up. Children and adults alike will be able to choose the message that speaks to them, and one surely will.
The text reads like poetry for young children. The words are simple and uncomplicated, even when they are unfamiliar. For example, while readers may not know what a ‘banca boat’ is, the word, itself, is short, and the accompanying illustration makes it immediately clear. The text is almost laid out in stanzas on the page, an approach which is generally effective. There may be an unusual line break or two, but overall the placement on the page works well to connect the text with the illustrations.
Renné Benoit’s watercolours harmonize beautifully with Fullerton’s words. The dominant colour is blue, but subtle changes creep in as the story progresses, mimicking the position of the sun as the day goes on. One standout illustration on page 18 is frame-worthy; it accompanies a key line in the book, and the colours shine bright and victorious as Nina’s grandfather encourages her to fight-- and win-- her battle.
Hand Over Hand is a perfect read-aloud book for groups of younger children. The illustrations are uncomplicated but still eye-catching, the text is poetic, and the book truly has something to say.
Allison Giggey, a teacher-librarian and mother of two, lives in Prince Edward Island.
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