October 27, 2015

Gerbil, Uncurled

A Tell-Me-More Storybook
by Alison Hughes
Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2015

Fitzhenry & Whiteside have a new addition to their Tell-Me-More Storybook collection and young readers have a delightful story that will tell teach them about gerbils and working together to formulate the best rules for all.

All the gerbils know the Gerbil Mottos in Gerbil, Uncurled.  They are:
  • The Night is Short: Keep Busy
  • Always Keep Your Whiskers Clean
  • Celery Tops Come To Those Who Wait
  • Many Paws Make Quick Work
  • Curl Up Nose To Toes
Important rules to follow to live to a good long life like Grandpa Gerbil who is a five whole years old!

But Little Gerbil, try as she might, is not a curl-up-like-a-ball sleeper.  And though she promises Grandpa Gerbil to try, she panics, desperate for fresh air and to stretch out in the sunshine. So when day ends, she scrambles back to her family’s bedding to wake up with the rest, huddled as she should be.  However, Little Gerbil can’t handle the guilt of accepting congratulations while she “was living a gerbil lie.” (pg. 12)  Nonetheless making some careful observations helps Little Gerbil guide her elders and family to rethink the Gerbil Mottos so that all may be successful.

Alison Hughes shares important lessons about cooperation, family and being true to oneself in Gerbil, Uncurled but young readers will be just as charmed by Suzanne Del Rizzo’s plasticene art of the little rodents and their environs.  Following in the artistic steps of Canada’s Grande Dame of plasticene, Barbara Reid, Suzanne Del Rizzo fashions warm hues of oranges and bieges, with touches of blue and turquoise as complementary colours, into gerbil life and details.  Her creatures are adorable and jump off the page with their curls and cedar shavings and braided textures.  I can’t possibly enumerate all the details in which children will delight–a teddy bear, a banana, celery, knitting, alphabet blocks–but they’ll be delighted that Suzanne Del Rizzo shares with them how to mold the dough into their own gerbils.  And everyone, teachers and parents included, will appreciate the additional information about different rodents and gerbil behaviour included in this Tell-Me-More Storybook appendix.

Gerbil, Uncurled will amuse and inform while providing a sweet vehicle for teaching about rules and coming together to make better ones that work for all.

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