A new children’s release from local publisher Tuckamore Books has a Christmas theme and tons of Newfoundland and Labrador flavour. But the book may leave readers wishing the collaboration between author and illustrator had left a little more under the tree.
Lisa Dalrymple, who produced the text, is an Ontario writer; the illustrator, visual artist Elizabeth Pratt, is a native resident of St. John’s.
Shortcomings notwithstanding, “If it’s No Trouble … A Big Polar Bear” is a fun read for adults as well as children.
Dalrymple handles rhyme and syntax nicely in telling a lively and funny story about a little girl who wants a polar bear for Christmas. Natalie gets her wish, and bear shenanigans ensue. Of course, this causes disruption in an already busy Christmas season household.
In every illustrated book for children, the illustrator’s task is vital. Pictures not only help tell the story, they contribute to its impact; they can make or break the end result. This is true of “Polar Bear,” where certain qualities of the illustrations cause them to fall short of what the story needs.
Pratt’s work contains lots of detail, but her muted and restrained use of colour makes the pictures in this book less robust and arresting than they should be.
In a story as rambunctious and silly as “Polar Bear,” the illustrations have to do more than show the action.
They need bold colours to complement the story’s tone. Unfortunately, Pratt’s artwork doesn’t jump off the page nearly enough.
As well, Pratt’s style in drawing children is unattractive, and I’m puzzled as to why she makes their faces look so old and non-childlike.
I’d make the same complaint about last year’s release from Tuckamore Books, “The Jelly Bean Row.” That’s row, as in argument.
Written by St. John’s native Susan Pynn Taylor, and also illustrated by Elizabeth Pratt, it’s a more boisterous story than “Polar Bear.”
Yet, Pratt’s over-use of pastels and her strangely unappealing approach to her human subjects constrain the rollicking narrative. The pictures don’t support the story with enough of a kick, and the result is a book that falls short of extraordinary.
“If It’s No Trouble … A Big Polar Bear” is still a rib-tickling adventure that children and grown-ups will enjoy following.
And readers, adult ones especially, will appreciate how the book incorporates aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador’s heritage and culture.
Darrell Squires is assistant manager of Public Information and Library Resources Board, West Newfoundland-Labrador division. You can contact him at: email@example.com or by phone at 634-7333. His column appears every other week.