Monday, March 31, 2008

The North Star: Book Review by ChristineMM

Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The North Star
Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Format: Hardcover book, 120 pages
ISBN: 9781891405006

How this book came to my attention: I saw this book on the Creative Mom Podcast blog. I didn’t understand enough about the book to know if I should buy it sight unseen. I borrowed it using interlibrary loan.

Peter Reynolds is a children’s book author and illustrator who also owns a bookshop, and also is an “educational media developer and publisher”. He formerly worked with special needs children at camp and worked in the classroom with children as well.

This lovely book is designed picture book style, with one or two illustrations on each two-page spread. The illustrations are in pen and watercolor paint. The story is told largely through the illustrations. The book could be read to young children but it is also a book with a message for people of all ages. The message is one that preteens and teens need to hear also, but I’m not sure if they would be willing to read through a book that is as cute as this, and looks and reads like a picture book.

The story is a fable with a pretty direct message. The message is that the world has a one right way path laid out for people, but that not all people thrive on this path and some will find great rewards by intentionally leaving that routine path to follow their own intuition, and watching for other, more subtle sign points along the way. By deliberately ignoring some direct orders, the little boy in the story makes some unique discoveries that he would not have experienced if he just stayed on the normal path. Also of benefit is changing course along the way, being flexible and open to change as the process of the journey unfolds. This book is not about pre-planning, setting routines and doing what others want you to do. It is about going with the flow, putting aside analysis and worry and just continuing forward along a not-always-predetermined path.

Not only is this message good for children to hear, but it is good for adults to remind themselves about too. In fact some young children may have the bulk of this message ‘go over their heads’. Some parents may enjoy reading this book to their special needs children. Wise adults will recognize the importance of this message and may immediately think of a few people who would benefit from hearing the message (even other adults). For that reason this book would make a good gift book.

The illustrations are cute and whimsical. If you love watercolor paint and hand drawn illustrations you may enjoy these very much and for that reason alone, you may desire to own this book.

Teachers will also appreciate the message in this book, especially those touched by students who don’t follow the cookie cutter norms, or special education teachers.

The biography of the author/illustrator says that Reynolds has his “passion to help children began at age twelve when he volunteered at a special needs camp. There he saw the profound power in truly understanding the unique gifts and abilities of every child.” Also noted in his biography is that he creates fables that will “reach ALL children”. It goes on to say “Peter’s personal mission is to help others on their journeys of self-discovery.”

I really enjoyed this book and hope to own my own copy someday. It is a keeper.

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