Fern and Horn

Groundwood. Sept. 2019. 48p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773062266.
PreS-Gr 2–A sibling pair explores the creative possibilities of destruction in a madcap battle of crafting and imagination. Fern—an olive-skinned girl with a striped top and a swoop of curly black hair—loves drawing and cutting, producing flowers, butterflies, and stars. She happily shares her art supplies with her brother, Horn, a slightly smaller boy with a slightly smaller swoop of hair. Horn finds Fern’s artistic endeavors too finicky, opting instead to fashion (or imagine?) gigantic elephants and polar bears who wreak havoc on Fern’s more delicate creations. Here’s where Gay’s book departs from most titles about a wild younger brother. Instead of reacting with wounded frustration or older sibling condescension, Fern responds to Horn’s playful chaos with determination. She builds anew, shifting the narrative to meet each fresh challenge, such as throwing chocolate chip cookies from a cardboard castle to subdue a dragon-suited Horn. Repeated lines and rich vocabulary pair with sweeping spreads in vibrant colors to lend the story a heightened, fantastical quality. Gay’s childlike, mixed-media illustrations capture the messy joy of playtime, as projects morph and accumulate. The distinction between the siblings’ imagination and their actual art may elude readers, but most will comprehend the satisfaction the kids find in their whimsical battle.
VERDICT A crafty sibling story that celebrates the delights of imaginative rivalry. Perfect for young makers.

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