________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 29 . . . . April 7, 2017



Emil Sher. Illustrated by Qin Leng.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2017.
24 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-483-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-484-8 (pdf).

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Christina Quintiliani.

*** /4


A first trip to summer camp can be quite the emotional experience. Thankfully, with the support and encouragement of loved ones, this monumental milestone in many children's lives can become a memorable, life changing event. In Away, Canadian author Emil Sher collaborates with Qin Leng to illustrate the tale of young Skip who is about to travel to summer camp for the very first time. While Skip is initially quite hesitant about this venture, frequently posed questions to his mother help to ease uncertainty associated with the unknown. The textual content of Away is depicted exclusively via "sticky notes" which are handwritten by the child and mother. These silent, back and forth conversations which occur throughout the weeks leading up to Skip's trip to camp are touching, and the mother's calming reassurance, accompanied by examples from her own childhood, help soothe Skip's anxious heart. When the moment comes and Skip finally departs, readers are treated with glimpses of handwritten sticky notes from camp which speak of Skip's new friendships and hopeful anticipation for next year's adventure.

internal art      Sher's sticky note approach is unique and offers a different style of reading experience which children and parents alike will appreciate. Even though the mother in Away is stretched for time, she still manages to find a meaningful way to converse with Skip, and the joy of discovery associated with the finding of the sticky notes becomes a central part of what makes this form of communication work for this particular family. Leng's elegant use of ink and watercolour provide a comforting tone to the story which mirrors the mother's efforts to reassure her apprehensive child. The sticky notes effectively emulate realistic handwriting and are displayed in vibrant shades, allowing their content to stand out from the remainder of the images. Leng's arrangement of the illustrations alter throughout the story, with some presented as single page illustrations and others depicted in montage format. To allow the reader to fully experience the perspectives of Skip, several illustrations are provided from her point of view, such as closeup views of the infamous calendar on the wall which serves as a visual countdown and an ominous reminder of the impending trip and its related sentiments. While, the modern day family may relate with the strategies used to help encourage ongoing communication amidst hectic day today life, one cannot help but wonder if an undistracted, one on one verbal conversation may have helped ease some of Skip's apprehensions sooner and allowed for a more positive perspective of the camp experience to emerge well before her departure.

internal art      Away delves into new territory for children's picture books as it introduces a refreshing twist on the traditional presentation of textual content. This book would serve as a lovely addition to the home collection and as a segway into classroom conversations about emotions associated with new and unfamiliar experiences.


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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