Room on Our Rock

Kane Miller. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781610679022.
K-Gr 2–There are two sides to every story, as demonstrated by dual versions of one dramatic tale like this one. The first is read front-to-back and the other back-to-front in this sea-worthy picture book featuring seals and a rock upon which to perch. The story that proceeds to the right introduces a mother seal and her calf hoarding their rock while emphatically shooing others away. The opposite one (proceeding in the other direction) features them welcoming their new friends to “make our rock your home.” The story’s palindrome format uses simple words yet is intricate, and requires repeated readings and extensive reflection. Given the same two words and options, which would a reader choose: to reject or accept? The reference to the worldwide refugee situation is clear, but the message could just as easily refer to helping or rebuffing one’s peers in school. The concept is brilliant, further enhanced by gentle pastel watercolors, but there are some confusing elements. While it is implied that the seal and pup are the ones dismissing the others, the illustrations don’t consistently make this clear. It is even confusing to keep track which two are the main narrators of the text among the several seals portrayed. Still, as a springboard for discussion about personal choice, acceptance, and different points of view, there is a great deal to savor here. An alternative picture book with more clear-cut illustrations to match a clever text would make a bigger and more effective impression.
VERDICT A unique book with enormous potential sure to inspire some, but potentially confuse others.

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