Saturday, September 21, 2019

Review - My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother & Me

My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother & Me
by Natalie Meisner
illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Date: 2019
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

And these are the things we find by the sea
My mommy, my mama, my brother, and me.

With this gentle refrain, the debut picture book from celebrated author and playwright Natalie Meisner (Double Pregnant) reflects on her own two-mom, two-son family's early days growing up in Lockeport, Nova Scotia.

Living by the sea offers myriad charms for the two young brothers in this poetic ode to beachcombing. When the fog disappears, the path to the beach beckons, with all the treasures it leaves behind: lobster traps, buoys, fused glass, urchins, a note in a bottle. But best of all is all the neighbours they meet along the way. An unforgettable instant classic for families of all shapes and sizes. Featuring glorious watercolours by Mathilde Cinq-Mars, which capture the warmth and magic of time spent with family by the sea.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This was a bit of a disappointment. The premise is lovely and the illustrations help bring the Nova Scotia setting to life. But the rhyming text is all over the place (to the point where it's a distraction) and the writing style is annoying.

My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother & Me is a rhyming story about a family's day at the beach. The treasures they discover are rendered in soft watercolours. Some of the pictures worked better for me than others (I'm not really a fan of the way the human characters are drawn here, for example, but that's just me). When the kids find something, there's usually a helpful neighbour around to explain what it is or how it can be used.

Now, I have no problem with that basic premise. But I was a little taken aback when one neighbour casually suggested that the kids could take a mermaid's purse home. A mermaid's purse is a sort of egg sac. How advisable is it to tell children that they can remove something like that from its natural habitat? It might be fine in that particular instance, but what if it leads to kids thinking they can take home anything they find on the beach (like, for example, endangered sea turtle eggs)? I felt this part of the story was a bit irresponsible.

And the writing just... well, it bugged me. The rhymes start out fairly strong, but then they fall apart. Meter is thrown out the window. By the end, I can't even tell if certain lines are supposed to rhyme or not. And the punctuation is nearly non-existent. This leads to the whole book looking like unpunctuated sentence fragments. And whenever dialogue shows up, it's thrown into the same paragraphs as the regular text--without quotation marks--so the whole thing comes across as a weird stream-of-consciousness ramble. (That's fine in books for adults. But I've just about had it with picture books for children that can't be bothered to use proper grammar and punctuation.)

This might work better as a read-aloud title for younger kids, but it's still going to be tricky with that random meter. It's a shame, because the themes of discovery and friendship are nice. It's the execution of the text itself that lets this book down.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.57 out of 5 ladybugs

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