CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 41 . . . . June 22, 2018
Angus loves things that sparkle. He finds joy in these objects and takes his love a step further to explore the concept of sparkling in a more abstract way. He identifies sparkly words and describes the sounds that he associates with sparkly objects. When Grandma June offers Angus her sparkly necklace with five strands of colourful glass beads, Angus finds that when he wears it he feels good. In fact, the necklace brings out his inner sparkle. As he gets ready for school the next morning, he decides to wear Grandma June's necklace. Despite his family's attempts to discourage him from wearing his new accessory, Angus happily heads to school wearing the necklace. Angus's classmates do not respond to his new necklace as he thought they would. Instead of feeling joy and hearing the sounds of the sparkling beads like Angus, they think it is too bright and too sparkly. Worst of all, they think it is funny. Hurt by his classmate's laughter, Angus retreats to the hallway where his necklace breaks and the beads shower down onto the floor. From then on, Angus cannot find joy in sparkly things, and he cannot hear the joyful sounds he used to hear when he saw them. The next day, a friendly classmate steps in to help Angus. She saved the beads from his broken necklace the day before and tries to return them to Angus. When she reveals to Angus that she can hear fizzing and popping sounds when she listens to the beads, Angus finds that he can hear the sounds again too. Together, they turn the broken necklace into two new bracelets and return to their classroom with each other's support and friendship.
Through the use of rich descriptive language and relatable characters, Smith focuses on the timely themes of friendship, acceptance, kindness and individuality. She expands upon the child reader's notion of sparkle and captures the vivacity of Angus's experiences by describing words that sparkle, words such as, "lustrous," "scintillating," and "gleaming". Beyond this, the text explains that Angus "liked sparkly things so much he felt as though he could hear them." Angus describes the way he hears stars, tap shoes and scissors, all making sounds as they sparkle. When Grandma June gives him her necklace, Angus discovers his inner sparkle, "fizzy and warm." Smith creates a relatable scene where Angus's classmates are not accepting of his necklace. Only one classmate steps forward to help Angus, and through this character Smith showcases the empathy and kindness that children can show for one another.
The illustrations bring the text to life, capturing both the sparkling, positive elements of Angus's experiences as well as the emotional struggles he encounters when his classmates do not accept him. The watercolour, gouache and pencil illustrations are vibrant when Angus's life is sparkling and happy and turn to colder blue tones when he is down and has lost his sparkle. Carter brings the characters to life. Their facial expressions capture the characters' emotions and emphasize both their struggles and the joy they find in the world around them. Throughout the text, bold fonts and unique font colours emphasize descriptive words and phrases, making them pop out and sparkle just as Angus would see them.
Angus All Aglow is a heartwarming story that emphasizes the individuality and creativity that each child brings to the world and the challenges children face as they try to communicate their uniqueness to others. Readers will find opportunities to see themselves and others in this story, and the message of acceptance will ring true for many of them. Angus All Aglow will be a welcome addition to libraries and classrooms where stories with strong themes of individuality, friendship and acceptance are needed.
Danielle Wing is a Children's Librarian in North Vancouver, BC.
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