February 06, 2012

Small Saul

by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7

Any child participating in the Ontario Library Association's Blue Spruce reading program this year will know Small Saul as a nominated title. But I would bet that most readers will recognize Small Saul as someone they know, perhaps their own child or even themselves. Small Saul is a character with a big heart, a formidable work ethic and a unique creativity but he just doesn't seem to fit in.

Bespectacled and bantam-sized, Small Saul's life-long goal has to live at sea but his limitations force him to look towards being a pirate rather than a member of the navy. After achieving his Pirate Diploma ("You ARRR a Pirate"), Small Saul is taken on by the last pirate ship around, The Rusty Squid. As hard as he tries, Small Saul is an oddity amongst the tough, treasure-driven pirates. But, when the captain unceremoniously pushes Small Saul overboard, the pirates soon recognize the treasure they had overlooked in the small pirate.

Readers will quickly get the message that it is important to be true to yourself and show perseverance.  When he couldn't get into the navy, Small Saul substituted piracy to still meet his dream of a life at sea.  When Saul wanted to show the others that he cared about the ship, he tidied and redecorated.  And, when he had kitchen duty, he didn't just serve bland gruel - he served pineapple upside down cake.
Ashley Spires, the creator of Binky the Space Cat (Kids Can Press, 2009), winner of the 2011 Silver Birch Express Award, has created a dear character with whom all readers can identify (albeit one in pirate garb).  Her ink and watercolour artwork are bright and straightforward (important for the littlest ones) but still include elements that will have children searching for quirky details like the recurring rat, the hang-in-there poster and the colourful bandages. Arrr, so ye be wantin' t' read this here book.  "Tis th' best.

For parents, teachers and librarians:
Kids Can Press, publisher of Small Saul and the Binky Adventure series, provides a great downloadable document of Storytime Activities for Small Saul available at their website, as they do for Binky the Space Cat and other books in their catalogues.

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