Friday, June 26, 2020

Review - When Emily Was Small

When Emily Was Small
by Lauren Soloy
Date: 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A joyful frolic through the garden helps a little girl feel powerful in this beautiful picture book that celebrates nature, inspired by the writings of revered artist Emily Carr.

Emily feels small. Small when her mother tells her not to get her dress dirty, small when she's told to sit up straight, small when she has to sit still in school.

But when she's in the garden, she becomes Small: a wild, fearless, curious and passionate soul, communing with nature and feeling one with herself. She knows there are secrets to be unlocked in nature, and she yearns to discover the mysteries before she has to go back to being small . . . for now.

When Emily Was Small is at once a celebration of freedom, a playful romp through the garden and a contemplation of the mysteries of nature.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a strange book. It's apparently based on a story that Emily Carr wrote herself called "White Currants". I haven't read the original, nor do I have any desire to. Although, I am curious as to whether the original story is as trippy and uncomfortable as this picture book.

To start with, the language is overly flowery and poetic and probably wouldn't be appealing to its audience. Second, the pictures are kind of creepy. Emily herself is bad enough, but then she meets this creature in the bushes that looks like a sharp-toothed wolf. It's supposed to represent wilderness, but for me, it came across more as a predator lurking in the bushes, ready to lure children away.

This picture book is just too weird for my taste. For slightly older readers, I'd recommend Kit Pearson's middle grade novel called A Day of Signs and Wonders. It's also about a young Emily Carr chafing at the expectations of society... but it doesn't devolve into uncomfortable fantasy to get the point across.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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