I have a huge stand-up version of the Library Lion in my library at school, and I am made happy looking at him everyday. He sits right beside the rocking chair, just so for storytime. Michelle Knudsen’s new book, Argus, has the same charm, sweetness, subtle humor, and timeless quality as The Library Lion, which I think proves once again that this lady has a gift for picture books.
I will forever more be partial to dragon books, because of my hours and hours of happy time spent working at Toronto’s Flying Dragon Bookshop. I know that if the store was still open, this book would certainly have been featured and hand-sold by many a happy Flying Dragon bookseller over and over again.
It starts (as lots of great children’s stories do), with a school project. When Sally receives her egg she observes that it “looks different.” Her teacher, Mrs. Henshaw, is quick with her response, “Now Sally, don’t be difficult. Some eggs just look different.” Throughout the story, as Sally becomes less and less sure of her strange hatching, Mrs. Henshaw tells her “don’t be difficult.” This cracked me up. I’ve been there. Any teacher has known that kid who has a little problem with everything, who is forever griping about something, or just pointing out little things that don’t seem right exactly at the second that you don’t want to hear it, and you’re just dying to say “get over it already.” I thought it was a funny touch for the teacher / adult reader for the author to make Mrs. Henshaw a little dismissive of Sally’s questioning. Knudsen really succeeds in capturing the busy, wonderful journey of a school project in a classroom, where everyone gets into it independently and as a community, having adventures and encountering surprises and answering questions along the way. This is a story about learning, and loving, and accepting difference, but all of these themes almost glow out of the book, if that makes sense. Nothing is heavy-handed or moralistic. Not to mention that Andrea Wesson’s expressive, softly coloured illustrations have just the right sense of freedom and whimsy to marry with the gentle nature of the narrative. I can think of so many ways to bring this into the classroom. Now all I need is a library dragon…
Argus is published by Candlewick.