CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 13 . . . . December 1, 2017
Thus begins Sam & Eva, Debbie Ridpath Ohi's second authored/illustrated picture book.
Annoyed at the interruption, Sam rubs out Eva's drawing of a cat.
At once, the two pick up their chalk and throw themselves into a game of artistic one-upmanship wherein Eva's cat turns into a super-hero marmot, Sam summons a marmot-crushing piano from the sky, and Eva turns the tables on Sam by changing the piano into confetti. Not to be outdone, Sam conjures up exploding confetti. Seeing their collaborative endeavour turned into a murderous mash-up, Eva says, "I don't like this story anymore" and stomps off. Sam has won the no-rules game technically, but, as he keeps on drawing, he admits that playing by himself is not the same.
The imaginative competition as it plays out between the two children is particularly appropriate for the preschool age, even to the escalation of violence on Sam's part and the stomp-off on Eva's. Children will enjoy the sly humour throughout and, in particular, the twist at the end of the story which Ohi cleverly creates to connect its closing and opening scenes. Sam & Eva will engage both mature readers and young listeners. It will make an excellent read-aloud (perhaps along with Harold and the Purple Crayon) which could well lead to interesting discussions on creativity and collaboration.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the gifted author-illustrator of Where Are My Books? and has illustrated a great many children's picture books, including two by Ian Michael Black Naked! and I'm Bored, the latter a New York Times Notable Children's Book.
In Sam & Eva, Ridpath Ohi has done an excellent job of portraying her two main characters in black and white. Using just one sentence per page, Ohi creates Sam and Eva's expressive faces and body language to tell their story perfectly. Equally convincing are the drawings with which Sam and Eva fill up their blank wall, from the tidy beginning to the completely chaotic crowded last page.
While Ohi's theme in Sam & Eva is clear (How does the artist balance creativity with collaboration?), it is in no way heavy-handed. Appealing characters and a satisfying story should guarantee Sam & Eva a place among the picture books on the shelves of elementary libraries.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.