Monday 17 July 2017

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool by Emily Larkin, illustrated by Helene Magisson (Wombat Books) HB
ISBN 9781925563047

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

‘I think it’s important for kids to know that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions,’ says author, Emily Larkin. ‘It’s okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain—but these times don’t have to last.’ This lovely picture book is aimed at helping primary aged children navigate their way through the ups and downs of life.     

The hero is an adorable polar bear cub. In the early pages the cub feels brave and adventurous. The illustrations are correspondingly bright, happy and fun. Then, for really no reason, the cub becomes sad and feels lonely ( ‘…Without warning the world seems closed. No one wants to know you.’)  The pictures here are navy blue and grey, with lots of wide empty spaces on the page.  A positive connection with nature and the support of family helps the little bear regain a sense of hope.

Helene Magisson’s pictures compliment exactly the gentle, emotive story. There are a number of recurring images for adults and children to discuss. What does the key signify? Why are the colours in the family photo brighter at the end of the book? How does the tree in the photo change? What does the bear’s scarf represent?

The text, generally, is clear and unambiguous. One sentence might confuse young readers (‘Only doubts are within your grasp’) but could, perhaps, offer  another chance for discussion.

Included is a useful page of Notes for Parents, Teachers and Carers written by a clinical psychologist. This adds to an understanding of the theme - that the emotional roller-coaster, described as ‘The Whirlpool’, is a normal part of life’s journey. 

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