Review: Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier

brief thief

Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

An import from France, this picture book has a wonderful quirkiness.  It is the story of Leon, a lizard, who is having a lovely morning, eating breakfast, sitting in the sun, and then he has to go to the bathroom.  But after he goes poo, he discovers that he’s out of toilet paper.   He looks around, but only sees prickly leaves and messy grass.  Until he discovers pair of old underpants hanging on a nearby branch.  They are full of holes anyway, so he uses them to wipe and tosses them away.  But that’s when a loud voice, his conscience, starts to talk to him and tells him to clean them up and hang them up to dry.  In the end, his conscience turns out to be something else entirely and the grand twist of the tale adds to the merriment of the book.

Escoffier is a popular author in France and this book marks his debut into the American market.  His humor is spot on for young readers who will adore the idea of what this lizard does for toilet paper.  They will not see the ending coming, since it is fresh and completely surprising.  In the end, the twist will delight readers even more than the original joke. 

Di Giacomo is the illustrator of My Dad Is Big & Strong, BUT… and I am very pleased to see another of her picture books come to English translation.  Her art is a fabulous blend of paint, crayon, fine lines and texture.  She uses blots of color as the leaves, something that is surprising but works very well. 

Share this with all of those children who love something a little naughty in their picture books.  If you share it with a group, you will most likely be asked to read it over again.  Also, expect riotous reactions to the humor.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton

when i was eight

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

This is a lovely new picture book version of Fatty Legs that will share Olemaun’s story with younger readers than the original chapter book.  It follows Olemaun from her time with her nomadic family through her attending the “outsider’s school.”  There her hair is chopped short and her warm parka is replaced with thin and scratchy clothing.  Her name is even changed to Margaret.  Margaret wants most to learn to read, but the school is much more interested in getting the children to work hard rather than teaching them.  Margaret has a difficult relationship with one nun in particular who makes a point of humiliating her regularly.  In the end though, Margaret does learn to read all on her own.

This is a story that works really well as a picture book.  I really enjoyed both Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home that were chapter books, but this younger version simplifies the story and keeps its quiet power.  As with the earlier books, I remain in awe at the strength that it took for Margaret to survive in the school and also the courage it takes to keep on telling her story.

Grimard’s illustrations echo the beauty of the Arctic but also capture the dullness and darkness of the school.  The nun character radiates scorn and anger on every page she appears in.  Margaret is shown usually isolated, but also as radiant in her resiliency.

A powerful look at residential schools on Native populations, this picture book version belongs in most libraries.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Annick Press.