What If

Enchanted Lion. Jul. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592702817.
Gr 3-6–Seated on a red orb amid a cheery scattering of colorful flowers, a child ponders the ills of the world and possible solutions. He begins by seeing soldiers at war. “‘We could paint over their uniforms,’ he thought. ‘And turn their guns into bird perches and shepherd’s flutes.’” He goes on to consider “what if” for famine, misery, the ocean, forests, tears, and the moon. Brief entries broadly hint at the worldly problems rather than specifically stating or describing them. A seventh may elude readers: “The child saw the powerful gorging, ordering, shouting, and decreeing. And he said to himself ‘We have to open their eyes or drive them out.’” In Tallec’s broad, simple paintings, the boy always appears as a pencil-sketched figure. The poetic, even fanciful glimpses of human irresponsibility within the narrative often seem obscure for children, yet there are thought-provoking possibilities for stimulating discussion and thought. The conclusion further bends reader perception of the boy’s thinking about the world: “The child looked out at the world from his island one last time. Then he decided.../ be born.”
VERDICT This translation of a 2004 French text is imaginative, vague, and maybe confusing. It’s difficult to predict an audience, but some parents and teachers may be intrigued.

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