What do you think of, when you think of Canmore, Alberta? Mountains most likely, lots of tourists, old white people in hiking boots, etc. Do you ever think of graphic novels? Or kids books? Well you should start, because Canmore is not only home to Olympic athletes, it’s home to the publisher Renegade Arts Entertainment which specializes in comic books, audio books, graphic novels, and animation. I know I keep harping on the fact that we should buy local, but with the surprising knowledge that world-class comics are being created right in the middle of the Rockies, why bother going anywhere else?
In 2015 they published a cute little book called Jacqueline the Singing Crow, which they were kind enough to send me for review. Immediately I plopped myself down with my daughter to get a sense of how it would go over with a toddler. She’s only 18 months old, so it was a bit old for her based on the amount of text on each page, but I’m sure as she gets older she will really enjoy it.
Selfishly, I wasn’t too fussed that she couldn’t sit through the entirety of it, because there were many reasons why I enjoyed it. Firstly, the message was quite unique. It basically chronicles the life of a crow from Canada (presumably Banff, where the author is from) who is constantly shooed away by tourists, simply because she’s an uninteresting-looking and annoying-sounding crow. So, she flies south to escape everyone’s mean comments, and bird watchers down there marvel at her glossy feathers and intelligent behaviour. After hearing these compliments she decides she has nothing to be ashamed of, and returns home to urge her fellow crows to be proud of their appearance and voice, no matter what others think of them.
This book also appealed to me because it included a little song at the end, complete with lyrics and notation. So of course I sat at my piano and played it, singing along for my daughter’s benefit. That, she really enjoyed.
But the best parts of this story, by far, were the names of the characters: more specifically, the people who commented on Jacqueline’s appearance. For example, one such naysayer was called ‘Ms Been-There-Done-That’, while her companion with the new binoculars was ‘Mr. Keen’. When Jacqueline flew south, she was complimented by ‘Senora Entusiasta’. I love when the author makes jokes that only the adult will understand, it reminds me of the feeling I get when watching a Pixar movie.
Anyway, I’m not versed enough in children’s literature to predict what age this would be appropriate for (the website says five and up), but I’m guessing children even a bit younger would eat it up, especially because it involves singing off-key. Or maybe that was just my version of it…