November 01, 2018

Out of the Blue

Written and illustrated by Wallace Edwards
Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
August 2018

The message of Wallace Edwards's newest picture book, a story deceptively simple but unusually rich in context and imagery, is all about differences and finding commonalities to evoke compassion. Out of the Blue may be aimed at ages 3 to 7 but it's a directive that should be picked up by all of society.

Ernest is a rhino (Wallace Edwards does illustrate great rhinos, as well as elephants, zebras, lions, cats, mice, etc.) who gets his kite stuck in a tree.  While he contemplates a solution to his problem, he gets a fleeting glimpse of an aerial object (really it's a UFO) and hears a loud noise in the sky. Worrying that someone might need his help, Ernest embarks on a trek, with the help of a large egret, across the plain and then alone up a treacherous mountain. When he discovers the space ship and bumps into a green amorphous alien, both he and the creature are terrified of the monster each sees in the other.
From Out of the Blue by Wallace Edwards
When they both venture out to eye the other, they attempt to communicate. But, as with all whose languages are different, Ernest and the creature endeavour to find commonalities, whether in the shape or colour or emotion of their communiques.
From Out of the Blue by Wallace Edwards
Displaying their dialogue bubbles as puzzle pieces that struggle to find the means to fit, Ernest and the creature finally discover that they may each be familiar with different things but they both love. And what the alien needs help with is his transport which has lodged in the ground. Ernest is happy to help his new friend who, in turn, offers his support, courtesy of some extraordinarily malleable appendages, before waving goodbye.
And there were no more monsters, only friends.
Because Out of the Blue is about communication and perception, Wallace Edwards was astute to have little text in the story.  The reader is given the opportunity to interpret the story and the dialogue between the two creatures, familiar and not, while still recognizing their fears, troubles, and helpfulness. Moreover, extra activities from Scholastic include What Would You Say? and Take Turns Telling the Story offering children the opportunity to create their own discussions between Ernest and the alien.
Scholastic Canada's extra activities for Out of the Blue by Wallace Edwards
Wallace Edwards's stories always have a surreal quality to them, particularly in the art that brings the familiar, like rhinos and trees and mountains, into the realm of the fantastic. Yet Ernest, who is very earnest in his endeavours to help and communicate with the other-worldly creature, is very real and down-to-earth in his efforts and his feelings. Fortunately, he sees beyond the monster he assumes the unfamiliar being is and instead finds a friend. 

Out of the Blue shares a positive message that fits into our troubled times of suspiciousness and antagonism. Too many see the differences as strife when it would seem that we're more alike than we often know. Thank you Wallace Edwards for reminding us of this.

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