July 01, 2013

Willow Finds A Way

by Lana Button
Illustrated by Tania Howells
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7 
March 2013

I know that school has only been out for a few days but with a relevant and delightful story like Willow Finds a Way, it really doesn't matter whether it's read in school or out of school.  When a child finds the means to deal with a classmate who coerces loyalty with the carrot of a birthday party, this life lesson could be useful for any one of the millions of circumstances in which people behave badly. If an author provides a strategy for young people to deal successfully with such situations, I say we publicize it as much as we can, especially if it is as subtle and non-preachy as it is in Willow Finds a Way.

In Lana Button and Tania Howell's sequel to Willow's Whispers (Kids Can Press, 2010), Willow's classmate Kristabelle announces that she will be having a fantastic birthday party and she has made a list of those who are invited.  Willow and her classmates are relieved to see that on a pink sparkly paper Kristabelle has listed all their names.  But Kristabelle doesn't just make a list.  She holds it over everyone as a bribe to encourage them to do just as she asks:  play on the climber, sit at her table, allow her to be line leader, wear pink.  If anyone doesn't comply, Kristabelle crosses their name off her pink sparkly list.  Around her, children want to do different activities, sit other places, wear different colours and enjoy their own choices, but no one comes to the aid of those whose names are removed so publicly from the list.  As in Willow's Whispers, shy Willow must find her voice again and do what she believes is right and she does, all without hurting anyone's pride.

The austere text and simple drawings by Lana Button and Tania Howells respectively acknowledge the commonality of the circumstances of Willow Finds a Way.  No child wants to be the ostracized by his or her peers, experience friendlessness, or feel coerced instead of compromising. Likewise for adults for whom these same circumstances could be witnessed in any workplace.  Without shaming Kristabelle, Willow finds a way to send her the message that it is not OK to treat others as she does by threatening to take names off her list.  By allowing Kristabelle to examine the situation and amend it herself, every one can keep their frail egos intact.

It's a rare day when you'll read a review of a children's book in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe & Mail, nowadays.  At one time, a "Children's Books" column could be found every second Saturday in their Books section, sharing reviews of a number of children's books, Canadian and otherwise.  So imagine my surprise to see the cover of Willow Finds a Way on a Book page in the June 22, 2013 edition of The Globe and Mail!  A delightful contribution of reviews by author Andrew Kaufman (Born Weird, Random House Canada, 2012) and his children, Frida and Phoenix, starts with Willow Finds a Way.  To have this book win the attention of Andrew Kaufman and company in this rare promotion of children's books should tell readers how special this book is in challenging children to see beyond the obvious and stand up to injustice, even if it is only in regards to a birthday party.  But, as you may recall from your youngest days, birthday parties are a very, very big deal to the young.  By solving these kinds of problems, young readers may be more resilient, all courtesy of Willow, Lana and Tania, when more significant problems arise.

1 comment:

  1. lovely! thank you so much for this review! honoured to be included on your blog-
    all the best!