CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 24. . . .March 3, 2017
Victoria Allenby. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2016.
48 pp., hardcover, $12.95.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Sadie Tucker.
The stacks of envelopes slipped and slid in Timo’s wagon as he started down the road. Just then, Suki came over the hill.
“Hello, Timo!” she said. “What are all these letters for?”
“They are invitations,” said Timo. “I promised Hedgewick I would host a party.”
Suki laughed. “You? But you hate parties.”
“I know. But Hedgewick wants to impress Madame LaPointe with his cooking. It is his dream. How could I say no?”
Suki ruffled Timo’s ears. “You are a good friend. I will help you deliver the invitations.”
Timo’s friend, Hedgewick, is very excited to learn that a famous restaurant reviewer will be visiting their town! As a chef, Hedgewick dreams that the reviewer will eat his food and recommend him to the masses. But how can he get her to try his cooking? Before Timo knows it, he has volunteered to host an apple festival to show off Hedgewick’s prowess in the kitchen. The only problem is... Timo hates crowds. How can he be a good host when parties make him anxious?
There is a lot to love about Timo’s Party. The premise and its attentive execution are particularly noteworthy. Timo is honestly anxious about hosting a party but decides to do it anyway. The story provides tools for dealing with intimidating situations (e.g., make a list of tasks) and gives tips on dealing with mild social anxiety as well as navigating social situations (e.g., ask people questions as they like to talk about themselves!). Not only does the book have some good advice, but it embeds that advice in a story that children will want to read.
The plot follows a logical progression, following Timo as he plans and executes the party (with some much-needed help from his friends). Initially, it seems that there will be a chapter or scenario for each of the three items on his to-do list, and so it is a little surprising when the third item (games) is folded in with decorating and barely mentioned. It seems that the theme of planning and executing a multi-step task would be better communicated by emphasising each step. Regardless, this is a minor complaint and does not take away from the thoughtful execution of the narrative. Limited repetition of key phrases is useful for providing structure to the story and for supporting developing readers.
The illustrations are charming and expressive. The inclusion of news articles and the party invitation are neat additions that not only add visual interest, but help to keep the reader’s attention on the story using environmental text. The presentation of gender was also refreshingly neutral for most of the book (although female characters did noticeably veer towards more traditionally feminine attire when attending the apple festival). The illustrations are placed strategically, complementing the story but not drawing attention away from it. As the reader becomes increasingly engaged with the narrative, the frequency of pictures goes down, subtly increasing the amount of text on each spread.
Timo’s Party is a thoughtful story with emotionally authentic characters. While more action-oriented readers may find the narrative less than engaging, this is a sweet chapter book with an empowering message.
Sadie Tucker is a children’s librarian with the Vancouver Public Library.
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