September 19, 2023

Garden of Lost Socks

Written by Esi Edugyan
Illustrated by Amélie Dubois
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2023 

Sometimes when you go looking for something that's lost, you find something else. And what's better than finding a friendship for one who looks for things with one who writes about things he finds.

Akosua calls herslef an exquirologist because she can find anything, though her family might think that what she often finds is trouble. When Akosua meets Max, he is struggling, having lost one of his favourite socks, a yellow, green, and red sock with black stars. Though Max loves finding stories from around his neighbourhood and recording them in his notebook, whether it's discovering a dog allergic to humans or a girl who would perform as a waterspout in a play, finding that missing sock has been a challenge. Fortunately, exquirologist Akosua offers to help.
From Garden of Lost Socks, written by Esi Edugyan, illus. by Amélie Dubois
The two children go in search of the AWOL sock, starting at Max's home and then venturing out to the laundromat, the barbershop, and even to the park. They find a variety of socks, some as decorations, as on a hot air balloon, and some in different versions, like as wrapping around trees. But nowhere do they find Max's missing sock.
From Garden of Lost Socks, written by Esi Edugyan, illus. by Amélie Dubois
They do find other amazing things which Max records enthusiastically. Ultimately, Akosua uses her keen observational skills to follow a clue and discover the location of the lost sock, only to realize that Max needs it less than someone else.

The convergence of Akosua and Max in Garden of Lost Socks demonstrates that sometimes things and people that appear very different are actually meant to be together. Akosua seems like a bit of a dynamo, an extrovert who puts herself out there. Max, on the other hand, seems more inside his thoughts and his words, sitting quietly on his stoop, considering his options and his stories. By questioning him, Akosua begins a conversation that brings the two together, as unlikely as that might have been originally. (And to think Akosua's brothers suggest she has difficulties finding friends.) Finding that lost sock may have been their original mission, but they find so much more in their search, from new stories to new friends.
From Garden of Lost Socks, written by Esi Edugyan, illus. by Amélie Dubois
Though many fans of CanLit will know Esi Edugyan as a two-time Giller winner, Garden of Lost Socks is her first children's picture book. But, if Esi Edugyan shows a comparable curiosity to that shown by her young characters–illustrated by Quebec's Amélie Dubois–then I foresee more heartfelt literary explorations for young readers. Esi Edugyan's story on its surface is a simple one with two children of different strengths coming together for one purpose and finding more than expected. But like the two children whose eyes see well but differently, whether with analytic or artistic sight, Garden of Lost Socks is more than a story of looking for a sock. It's a story of finding friends without looking and working with your own strengths. It's cheering for diversity in personality and in purpose.

Amélie Dubois, whose art was first seen by this reviewer in A World of Mindfulness (2020), has an incredibly light touch. Searching for a lost sock might not seem a big deal but, to a child, missing a favourite anything is a very big deal. Still Amélie Dubois does not emphasize the angst or the frantic nature of a search for a missing object but keeps it more exploratory than hunt. They walk, they look, they ask, and they delve, but they do not panic, and they are not intrusive. Instead Amélie Dubois takes us on our own journey of discovery, from a laundry where a tutu shares a line to dry with an astronaut suit and a safety suit of orange and yellow, to a doorstep where dozens of shoes rest, and to a park of flowers, knitted tree protectors, and animals. Her lines produced by the strokes of her coloured pencils emulate the movement of the kids in their own quest while giving the story an airy texture.
The world is a garden of lost socks, from a laundry to a drawer, to a park or a nest, but Esi Edugyan reminds us that finding one sock may just be the start of something far greater.

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