January 29, 2020

What's Up, Maloo?

Written and illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
January 2020

Tackling issues of mental health in picture books requires a special touch. You can be neither silly about it nor aggressive while still getting the message out that there is help. Geneviève Godbout's text and art, always thoughtful and serene in soft pastels and coloured pencils, meets the challenge with style and compassion.
From What's Up, Maloo? by Geneviève Godhout
When kangaroo Maloo is happy and hopping, she is on top of the world. Life is a bed of roses, pink ones in fact. But when she's not, the hop goes out of her and a grey cloud envelopes her thinking. She walks to her friends who all ask, "What's up, Maloo?" and all she knows is that she's not hopping. There's the baking wombat, the swimming crocodile, and the koala, all who want to help. They attempt to lull her into play with balls in the water, and levitate her with the air from fans but the black cloud around Maloo does not dissipate and she isn't hopping.
From What's Up, Maloo? by Geneviève Godhout
The friends continue on their walking journey until they find a sail-like sheeting which they spread out and upon which Maloo bounces, hoping for her hop to come back. A bit of fun, a lot of friendship and a little time and Maloo is hopping again, now with her friends in tow!
From What's Up, Maloo? by Geneviève Godhout
Geneviève Godbout's illustrations are so serene and thoughtful, emphasizing a tenderness to Maloo's plight and the compassion of her friends. But still Geneviève Godbout's story stays inspirited, playing with graphic idioms such as Maloo's lack of a spring, or hop, in her step, the black cloud around her as an analogy for depression, and the bed of roses that make up her landscape when she is happy. Geneviève Godbout's What's Up, Maloo? makes me hopeful that, with a little help from friends who are supportive without being controlling or taking charge of her feelings, Maloo can get her hop back whenever the dark cloud descends again.


It seems highly appropriate that I review What's Up, Maloo? on January 29th which is Bell's Let's Talk Day.  This is the day when media corporation Bell Canada contributes 5¢ to mental health initiatives in Canada for every applicable text, call, tweet, or social media video view in support of Bell Let's Talk.  So let's talk about What's Up, Maloo? to get our own conversation going about using Canadian picture books to support mental health. You'll find me on social media doing just this and I hope you'll do the same.

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