Sunday 27 November 2011

Just Like New

As a child, I can remember my Mom wrapping a canned good in white tissue paper and tying the ends with red or green ribbon, making it look like a large "bonbon".  We would take the gift to church for White Gift Sunday, during the season of Advent.  Recently, I read a picture book about the same topic called Just Like New by Ainslie Manson.  Opening its pages, the reader observes illustrator Karen Reczuch's beautiful watercolours which tell the Canadian part of the story. 

Sister and brother Sally and Mike live in Montreal and attend church where they are asked to bring a present for White Gift Sunday to donate to a child in war-torn England.  The catch?  The donated present has to be "just like new".  Mike immediately picks a book that he is not interested in.  However, Sally grapples with the decision:  should she wrap up one of two worn out dolls or should she send her doll that is in near mint condition?  In the end, Sally chooses the latter, labelling the doll with its name for the new owner.  Overseas in England, where the scenes are illustrated in black and white, the little girl who receives the parcel is thrilled.  The English girl becomes pen pals with the Canadian one.

Ainslie Manson brings World War II home to Canada in an informative way, getting to the heart of her readers through a doll.  She shows how a small child can make a big difference in the life of another child just by one selfless act.  I love Canadian historical picture books, especially those that tackle serious issues, but in a safe setting.  If you are interested in this type of book, go to the library and look for the picture books that have a red Maple Leaf on the spine.  Some will of course be fiction books, but others will be non-fiction.  It's a great way to bring history to life for young children.  And hopefully the book will be the spark to incite a lifelong passion for history in your child.  Or maybe your child will pick out something "just like new" to donate to a needy child this Christmas.

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