CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 27. . . .March 16, 2018
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, May, 2018.
39 pp., hardcover & pdf, $17.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77306-016-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77306-017-0 (pdf).
Kindergarten-Grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
He was working on the train platform when someone recognized him. “You. You are the Outlaw!” The stranger did not deny this. One man kicked up dirt at him. Another spat at his feet. The Outlaw did nothing at all. The boy stepped in front of the Outlaw. “Leave him alone! He’s trying.”
Residents in a small town, somewhere in the Old West, live in fear of the return of the Outlaw known for the trail of misery he brings to their lives. Time passes, but he doesn’t return. With his absence, his evil deeds stop, and the townsfolk are happy. One day a stranger appears. He sets about tackling many needed repairs in the town…building a horse-trough, mending the schoolhouse and the railway station. When he is recognized as the Outlaw, many people turn on him. Silently, he accepts their taunts. Only a young boy who has befriended him defends him, and, while some residents agreed with the little boy, others do not. Irrespective of their acceptance, the man continues to make amends for his previous misdeeds.
The Outlaw is a story about contrition and redemption as well as finding forgiveness of oneself and others. There is a certain perfection about the minimalism of this understated story that says precisely all that is required and yet simultaneously leaves one wanting to know more. It haunts one’s imagination long after reading. Through the combination of crisp restrained text and illustrations, the book manages effectively to convey every emotion from fear to regret to resignation and defiance.
Capturing the feel of the time period in the 1850s/60s, the artwork, across double-page spreads, is executed in ink and watercolor, using newspaper and fabric designs of the time as well as a font used on Wanted posters in that era. The powerful nature of the story is captured in the austerity of the scenery in sombre browns, blacks, whites and greys and the sober, unsmiling figures who yet manage to convey expression. The dramatic illustrations are a perfect complement to the minimalist text.
The Outlaw, Nancy Vo’s first picture book, is an unusual and significant book for children and a welcome addition to all library collections.
Aileen Wortley is a retired children’s librarian from Toronto, ON.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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