April 19, 2021

The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe

Written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Illustrated by Zoe Si
Owlkids Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2021 
Poor Timothy Shmoe.  He's a kid who never intends to do wrong or misbehave. In fact, according to the myriad of apologies he has to write, he always has a reason behind whatever incident has landed him in hot water again. Unfortunately, things just keep happening. (Funny, huh?)
From The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, illus. by Zoe Si
Timothy Shmoe was not a bad kid...
But sometimes he did bad things.
From calling his father a bad name to expressing his dislike for a gift, playing hockey inside or touching other people's things, Timothy is a kid who just does things and doesn't think about the consequences. In other words, he's like many kids.

From The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, illus. by Zoe Si
For each sorry event, Timothy is required to write a letter of apology. He often starts them with "I'm sorry that..." before going on to explain why what happened has happened. He was just trying to be honest or wanting to cool his mother down on a hot day or he woke up on the wrong side of the bed or Fluffy scratched him or...or...or. There's always something with Timothy that explains away his behaviour, or so he thinks.
From The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, illus. by Zoe Si
But all those little episodes become a colossal comedy of errors when Timothy attends his sister's dance recital and he and his marbles end up creating an act of their own.
From The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, illus. by Zoe Si

Parents and teachers know that impulse control in children may develop earlier (ages 3-4) but may take years to become entrenched, and Timothy is just learning to see that his actions have consequences. Like many parents, his are frazzled, trying to find the means to teach Timothy the behaviours that are less destructive or hurtful and the letter-writing may be a good start. Though he's obviously a reluctant apology writer, Timothy starts to accept that his actions are impacting others. In fact, his final letter suggests that his parents may wish he was never born because he wrecks everything. There is one more letter, this one from his dad, that expresses something very different.
I would only be sorry if you were not my son.
Stephanie Simpson McLellan, who has written a number of my favourites including The Christmas Wind (20017), takes both a light-hearted and serious tone in The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe. Yes, he does some silly things that older kids and adults usually recognize as potentially disastrous, but the frustrations that he and others feel are very real and even distressing. For a child to feel unwanted is sad. Thankfully Stephanie Simpson McLellan has given Timothy parents who are understanding and loving and, with their help, he's sure to grow into his self-control.

Vancouver cartoonist and illustrator Zoe Si uses ink and watercolour to play on that tenuous relationship of humour and consequence. She easily turns Timothy's initial delight in his play into frustration, embarrassment and even shame with his body language and facial expressions. We know how Timothy feels, as well as everyone in his orbit of activity. Except for the crazy dance recital where everything goes awry, Timothy is always the focus of Zoe Si's artwork, with significant white space being used to emphasize his limelight. 
There are laughs in The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe but also lessons about intention, consequences and forgiveness. Timothy Shmoe is anybody who makes mistakes and then has to face the consequences for those mistakes. That's all of us. Here's hoping none of our mistakes are ever too consequential for forgiveness.

No comments:

Post a Comment