Picture Book Review: Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas & Sydney Smith

Review: Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Sydney Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Tundra Books, imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Tundra Books.
Book Description:

Smoot the shadow has been living a yawn-filled life for years. His boy never laughs and never leaps, so Smoot never does either . . . until the day he pops free, and decides to hit the road in search of the life he dreams about. And as he enjoys his first colorful day–singing, dancing and playing–other shadows watch him, and they become brave too. The frog’s shadow takes the shape of a prince, the dragonfly’s shadow that of a dragon. Even the rock’s shadow gets in on the excitement. But what will become of the timid beings their shadows have left behind? Will they finally be inspired to find their own daring?

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow comes from the writing talent of Beyond the Laughing Sky author Michelle Cuevas, and award-winning Sidewalk Flowers illustrator Sydney Smith. A wondrous and fable-like tale of a shadow wanting to live a bright, dancing, laughter-filled life beyond his shy, timid boy, Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow is a fantastic read.

When readers meet Smoot, we see that the shadow is aching to break out from his boy’s quiet, quiet life. Smoot longs so much to laugh, dance, take risks, and do something beyond the still life of his young boy. So when Smoot manages to break free from his boy- with a surprising ‘pop!’- Smoot thinks ‘This is my chance!’. So Smoot packs a few things including ‘some shade, some moonlight, a change of underpants’ and goes forth. Through full-page, glorious, detailed and loose ink and watercolour illustrations, we see Smoot experience exciting, vibrant activities: climbing trees, jumping rope, going on a merry-go round, and more. Then, something seemingly small but significant happens: a dandelion’s shadow- so inspired from watching Smoot- flies away from its flower, followed by the shadows of a grasshopper, cricket and frog. As Smoot watches more and more- and larger, intimidating shadows break free- he wonders how out of hand or dangerous uncontrolled shadows might make things for living beings… so Smoot very cleverly puts together a plan that leads the shadows to contentedly return to their old lives. Without spoiling the lovely culmination, I will say that even Smoot and his boy find a way to make wishes old and new meet in an exciting middle.

Overall, Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow is a beautiful and unexpected story that shines due to Cuevas’ penchant for fantastical storytelling and Smith’s stunning art. The combination here of Cuevas’ magical, unusual, Norton Juster-like writing with that of Smith’s incredible, unique style and use of vivid colour and contrast makes for something noteworthy here. The essence of the story- that of dreaming of a life beyond the quiet shadows- may be something we have read before, but Cuevas and Smith truly create something marvelous and out of the ordinary here with their combined exceptional writing and illustrative efforts.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Must Read Monday (44): Frank Viva’s Sea Change & Esta Spalding’s Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: new children’s/middle grade offerings from Canadian authors and illustrators! First up is author/illustrator Frank Viva‘s Sea Change. I can’t recall where or when I first read about Sea Change, but having read Viva’s wholly inventive picture books, I was interested in seeing what the author could do in children’s literature. I have read and heard terrific praise for the Nova-Scotia set coming-of-age graphic novel, so I am really looking forward to get to it this summer! Second up is Esta Spalding’s middle grade debut Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts, illustrated by Sidewalk Flowers artist Sydney Smith. I had been hearing bits and pieces about this Canadian authored and illustrated title from library colleagues, as well as reading about the title in library journals. Esta Spalding (as I learned while reading more about Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts!), is an award-winning screenwriter and poet, with many credits to her name in Canadian productions. Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts has such an intriguing and quirky book description; that, along with the fact that the book is illustrated by Sydney Smith (whose work is incredibly beautiful), has my hopes up high!

 

SEACHANGE27135066Sea Change by Frank Viva
Publication: May 24, 2016 by TOON Graphics

One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more—a hidden library, starry nights and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth. See Point Aconi through Eliot’s eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn’t want to leave.

 

FITZGERALDTROUTS25648162Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding, illus. Sydney Smith
Publication: May 10, 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Kim Fitzgerald-Trout took to driving with ease–as most children would if their parents would ever let them try. She had to. After all, she and her siblings live in a car.

Meet the Fitzgerald-Trouts, a band of four loosely related children living together in a lush tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive anywhere they need to go–to the school, the laundromat, or the drive-in. If they put their minds to it, the Fitzgerald-Trouts can do anything. Even, they hope, find a real home.

Award-winning poet and screenwriter Esta Spalding’s exciting middle grade debut establishes a marvelous place where children fend for themselves, and adults only seem to ruin everything. This extraordinary world is brought to vibrant life by Sydney Smith, the celebrated artist behind Sidewalk Flowers.