Saturday, December 12, 2009

You're Mean, Lily Jean (and many other books)

I'm back. I have a stack of books on my desk I've been meaning to blog about. (And a box under it, too. Sigh.) My own work and other writing projects have been taking my time, but these slower days (for the moment at least; comments from my editor are imminent) are giving me a bit of time to finally post. I hope you enjoy — or at least find useful — these updates and links. First up: You're Mean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.

Frieda was in Tough City earlier in the year so we had a chance to meet and have a cup of tea. It's always wonderful to meet other writers from across the country, so I'm glad she looked me up. I suspect there is not a child (probably female child) in the country, or an adult (probably female, too) who cannot relate to the scenario in You're Mean, Lily Jean. A new girl moves in next door — oh, joy! But it turns out that Lily Jean is a tad bossy and while she's happy to play with Sandy, she exerts her will and bossiness over Sandy's young sister, Carly. Whatever Lily Jean deems the girls shall play — house, cowgirls, king and queen — Carly is only permitted to play if she takes on a "lesser" role — baby, cow, dog. The dynamics of a trio of girls, which is already dredging up squirmy memories for me, is also at play in this book. Carly plays along, but only to a point. As you can expect, Lily Jean gets her comeuppance at the book's crescendo and all is resolved satisfactorily at the end, without any meanness. Kady MacDonald Denton's illustrations have always appealed to me, ever since I started reading 'Til All the Stars Have Fallen: Canadian Poems for Children with my own wee sprogs. (It's a fabulous book, by the way, and still in print almost 20 years later.) Her illustrations are bright and playful and the children's expressions, especially Carly when she is being relegated to the role of cow (complete with moos) cracks me up. Her art perfectly complements the characters well-envisioned by Wishinsky.

Others have a lot to say about this book, often along the lines of teaching about bullying and expressing ones feelings. Of course this is all very true, but above all it's a wonderful story, with spot-on illustrations, that I bet all children (old and not so) can relate to. What more could you want?

Here's the publisher's blurb and a review from Quill and Quire.

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