The natural world’s enriching effect, the tragedy of its fragile state, and the need for both action and hope are portrayed allegorically in this picture book imported from Canada.
Lucy, a little girl depicted with skin the white of the paper, loves nature. Papineau’s narrative glistens in its lyrical descriptions of Lucy’s activities as she participates in “the dance of the seasons,” and illustrator Hamel’s sprightly illustrations, full of translucent swirls of line and pattern, echo this dance. But then Earth becomes diseased, and Hamel’s illustrations display harsh black lines and darker colors. Angularity and darkness continue, both illustratively and narratively, as Lucy “give[s] up on the Earth.” When her tears fall into the brook (after a dragonfly friend brushes them off Lucy’s cheeks with her wings), her message of sadness spreads across the world and reaches Tama, a brown-skinned boy with textured, black hair, who knows “how to listen to…the songs of the brook.” Tama spreads the word, and people all over begin to want to “cure this child” by healing the planet. It’s unfortunate that Lucy is shown as white since it conveys the assumption that the happiness of white people is of paramount importance and it’s the job of brown people to see to it.
This allegory about the actions of individuals making a difference and the importance of hope is relayed in beautiful language and delicate illustrations—and a subtle white bias. (Picture book. 5-8)