October 17, 2017

The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain

Written by Carolyn Huizinga Mills
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
October 2017

Mondegreens, the mishearing of a word or phrase, is typical with songs for which the listener does not see the words they are hearing.  It seems reasonable that the same could be applied to any repetitive rhyme that is misheard like the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep."  When little Sally hears her mother repeating that old English nursery rhyme to her baby brother, she is convinced that she hears,

"Baa baa black sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for my master.
One for my dame.
And one for the little boy...
Who lives down the DRAIN.
From The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain 
by Carolyn Huizinga Mills 
illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
No wonder her ears perk up.  And, boy, does she have a lot of questions about what's happening with that wool and about his living arrangements.  
From The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain 
by Carolyn Huizinga Mills
 illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
As a child who seems to be dealing with busy parents, a  crying baby, and twin sisters who won't let her play with them, Sally is in need of a little companionship and conversation.  That little boy who lives down the drain seems like a perfect friend.  At least, he's available, sitting down the very drain of the tub in which she takes her baths. 
From The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain 
by Carolyn Huizinga Mills 
illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
After the water lets out, Sally shouts down a cheery "Hello" to the little boy.  Her voice echoes and as she talks away about herself and her family, she envisions him using the wool to fish in the drain.  The little boy down the drain listens as she laments the attention she lacks and the annoyance of her brother and sisters.  When she can't hear his responses, she speaks more emphatically into the drain, telling him "I know you're probably trying, but you need to try something different!

What she hears back is the echo of her final words "Try something different" which gives her the courage to do just that with her family.  Her own words help bring some resolution to her issues with her family but the story doesn't end there.  You see, Sally eventually hears a different ending for the rhyme and interprets it in her own charming way.

The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain was just nominated yesterday for a Blue Spruce award.  That's high praise indeed for Carolyn Huizinga Mills' first picture book.  Sally is so spontaneous and sweet, honest and innocent, never assuming she's misheard the words.  She is determined to speak with the little boy who lives down the drain, and treats him with such reverence and curiosity.  There is a surprise ending here that will have readers laughing out loud with its simplicity and cleverness.  And Brooke Kerrigan, who has illustrated several Blue Spruce-nominated titles including Fishermen Through and Through (written by Colleen Sydor, Red Deer Press, 2014) and Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!) (written by Heather McLeod, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011) brings a sweetness to Sally and her bathtub antics, as well as to her efforts to engage her family.  Just like Sally, Brooke Kerrigan's illustrations have a guilelessness to them.  Her characters are so natural, her settings clean and subtle, and yet they are enriched with detail as appropriate. (See the illustration of Sally trying to get her busy family's attention in the illustration above.) Together Carolyn Huizinga Mills and Brooke Kerrigan have created a picture book about a little girl's naiveté but turned it into a lesson in empowerment.  For good advice about being empowered, you really must listen, like Sally did, to The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain.


To see a list of all the Blue Spruce nominated titles for the 2018 Forest of Reading® readers choice awards, including The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain,  go to my awards page here.

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