July 12, 2021

Percy's Museum

Written by Sara O'Leary
Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2021

Percy loved living in his busy urban neighbourhood in which friends and activity were plentiful. But a move to the country, where houses are separated and playmates undiscovered, Percy isn't sure what to make of his new home.
From Percy's Museum by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Carmen Mok
But discovery reveals the unexpected. There's a special "Percy-sized house" at the edge of the yard and a plethora of natural wonders. There are "bees kissing flowers, ants on parade, and birds putting on air shows." There are wild strawberries to taste, and trees to sit upon, and everywhere there is change.

From Percy's Museum by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Carmen Mok

Taking in all these wonders, he collects and documents them, putting them on display in his small pink house. Even though he realizes that he isn't lonely because there is always something to see and do in his new place, it might be nice to share. So, with some balloons and drinks and a sign pointing out "Percy's Museum," Percy is delighted to discover that sometimes friends find you.

From Percy's Museum by Sara O'Leary, illus. by Carmen Mok

Change is hard for many of us and more so for some than others. It's evident from Carmen Mok's first illustration of a forlorn Percy sitting alone on a bench in an expansive yard that his new situation is uncomfortable. But this child opens his eyes and heart and begins to explore his new surroundings. He sees things he'd never imagined, from fish in a creek and baby birds in a tree to a patch of edible wild strawberries. He immerses himself in the nature of his new home and uncovers new wonders, or at least new to him and, through Sara O'Leary's words, we go with him.  She takes us into Percy's heart and lets us see with his eyes. She's very good at doing this, giving readers the perspective of young children, for example imagining their parents as children (When I Was Young, 2011) and seeing their familiar neighbourhood in the unfamiliarity of night (Night Walk, 2020). There's a innocence and sweetness to Percy's perception of his new world and his openness to new experiences. He's never critical or complaining. He doesn't whine that his new home isn't as good as his old. He simply knows it's different, and different doesn't mean bad or wrong. And don't Carmen Mok's gouache and coloured pencil illustrations mirror that freshness of outlook? 

Percy's Museum is a reflection of this little boy's heart: it's cheerful, bright and full of wonders, and an invitation is sure to enrich, in more ways than one.

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