Friday, July 10, 2009

Anything But Hank review

There's a nice little review, by someone named Robyn McNeil, of Anything But Hank! in the new issue of Tidings, the University of King's College alumni mag:

Choosing a baby’s name can be difficult. When my child was born, months of research and consideration had been whittled down to a short list of over 200 possibilities. Finding a suitable moniker that doesn’t lend itself to teasing or playground fodder, let alone one you like, can be a struggle at best.

Herein lies the crux of the problem in Anything But Hank!, the first children’s book by Rachel Lebowitz and King’s alumnus Zachariah Wells (BAH ’99), a whimsical narrative illustrated by Eric Orchard. Eight weeks after the birth of a little boy, his parents still haven’t agreed on a name and, according to the family cat, the child’s relentless tears won’t cease until he has a title all his own. So one night, while the boy’s parents sleep, a wise old pig puts the crabby tot on his back and they set off to find the wizard whose Mexican beaded lizard has a talent for knowing the name meant for every child.

Broken into five chapters, Lebowitz’s and Wells’s tale combines fanciful humour reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s literary nonsense with the adventure-narrative style of Robert Service’s ballads. The result is an entertaining read for all ages, though my kindergarten-aged son was especially delighted by the whimsy in the story’s rhymes.

The lushly gorgeous paintings of the Halifax-based illustrator that accompany the story add to the book’s allure. Paired with the writers’ quirky prose, Orchard’s darkly haunting illustrations elevate the Biblioasis publication from common tale to treasured keepsake, perfect for sharing at story time.

Children and parents alike will love the unusual adventure that unfolds in this oddly enjoyable tale, as they uncover the answer to whether the unnamed child “needs a word, a quiet space that he could call his own, needs a name to match his face, a name he can call home.”

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