Owen at the Park

Groundwood. Aug. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781773061672.
PreS-Gr 2–Little Owen assists his dad with landscaping work at Berlin’s Tiergarten park. Together they perform the mundane labor of sweeping the paths, raking, and trimming the enormous lawns, Owen’s dad walking on crutches when not riding the lawn mower. Once a week, however, there’s a special job that Owen both loves and fears due to his shyness. Ritchie does not reveal the task at first, merely showing Owen approaching and warning park goers, initially in “friendly and firm” tones, then with increasing urgency as time of the event approaches, building up to “shouting...startl[ing] a baby, a sleeping dog, than a flock of starlings.” When the park empties, Owen joyously turns on the tap, letting powerful sprinkler jets drench the park and “anybody who hadn’t listened,” this grand event inspired by the author’s own experience in Tiergarten. There is something reminiscent of Bob Graham’s urban lyricism in Ritchie’s line pencil and ink illustrations and overall tone of the story. Colored in Photoshop, full spreads dazzle with verdant foliage, but include many small details of other park goers, as well as offering glimpses of city buildings in the distance.
VERDICT Small in scope but evocative in impact, this gentle tale will have readers cheering at Owen’s success and yearn for a park adventure of their own

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