October 10, 2019

Mel and Mo's Marvelous Balancing Act

Written by Nicola Winstanley
Illustrated by Marianne Ferrer
Annick Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2019 

Mel and Mo are twins and, as much as they love each other, they like different things. One likes the rain, the other sun. One likes getting up early, the other late. And as they grow older, their differences increase until all they do is disagree. When they choose careers, Mel takes over the family umbrella business and Mo performs on a high-wire with multiple poodles as part of the Sunny Sea-Side Circus.
From Mel and Mo's Marvelous Balancing Act by Nicola Winstanley, illus. by Marianne Ferrer
But, with time, things change. They always do. Mel's umbrellas and Mo's act both fall out of fashion, regardless of their efforts to adapt. It isn't until the twins come together to reinvent themselves and their product or act that they find a way to be successful, still different but now in balance.
From Mel and Mo's Marvelous Balancing Act by Nicola Winstanley, illus. by Marianne Ferrer
Nicola Winstanley, whose picture book How to Give Your Cat a Bath (Tundra, 2018) is currently nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award, always takes a light touch to important stories. Here we have non-binary twins who are the same but very different. Their differences define them. But when their choices become limiting, it is only by finding common ground that the two can continue to let their differences shine. Neither Mel nor Mo is expected to give up on themselves to "fit" into what their sibling or society deems appropriate for twins. Nicola Winstanley gives them the space to grow their creativity for creating a product or an entertainment but also the wisdom to recognize when collaboration would be beneficial.
From Mel and Mo's Marvelous Balancing Act by Nicola Winstanley, illus. by Marianne Ferrer
Similarly Marianne Ferrer balances the similarities between the two siblings with their differences. With one creating colourful umbrellas of wild shapes and the other astounding with high-wire acrobatics, Marianne Ferrer places the emphasis on the twins' differences, though still recognizing their similarities in hair styles and by dressing them similarly when young. I have been a big fan of artist Marianne Ferrer since reviewing Racines (Monsieur Ed, 2016). From that, my first French-language book review, I've been enthralled by her pencil and watercolour illustrations that employ a subtlety of colour and balance the whimsy with the sensible.

Mel and Mo's Marvelous Balancing Act may be about twins who want to be individuals whose differences are accepted as relevant, but it's also about knowing when to bring those differences into proximity for collaborative creativity. It's a fine balance that Mel and Mo are able to find and celebrate, as we all should.

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