In the Red Canoe

Leslie A. Davidson, illus. by Laura Bifano. Orca, $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0973-4
Davidson and Bifano make their picture book debuts with a quiet account of a girl’s day on the lake with her grandfather. The girl narrates in sturdy rhyming verse (“We don’t say much—we mostly look./ He shows me everything./ The watery world goes sliding by./ Our paddles dip and swing”), describing their run-ins with beavers, “schools of fishy fry,” ducklings with legs like motorboats, and other creatures. Bifano portrays the girl as a tomboyish type, eager to chase frogs down a “secret, muddy beach,” but also content to rest against Grandpa’s knees as swallows dart overhead. Painted in gouache, the scenes have the feeling of stills taken from a lushly rendered animated film, and Bifano pays careful attention to the changing quality of the light as day gives way to evening. For his part, Grandpa remains a silent, almost stoic presence, but Bifano’s paintings give him a kindness that’s cemented in a closing scene of him carrying the sleeping girl to their lakeside cabin beneath a starry sky. A warm story of intergenerational companionship and nature’s everyday delights. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
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