John’s Turn

John’s Turn
Mac Barnett and Kate Berube
Walker Books

As the story opens we’re party to an event in the school canteen; here every Friday a school assembly takes place and one pupil presents something in what’s called the ‘Sharing Gifts’ performance. On this Friday it’s John’s turn and it’s pretty clear that he’s feeling nervous as he eats breakfast and dons his attire. Singing over, Mr Ross introduces John and out the boy steps as the curtain is pulled aside.

There’s some sniggering at the music that starts playing (‘strings, violins and things, and then maybe flutes’)

and the dance begins.

We’re treated to a sequence of double-page spreads – three wordless, two almost so – showcasing John’s moves: how stunning they are as we see his facial expressions and body language change as his fears dissipate and seemingly effortless, graceful capability takes over making him joyful.

Joyful too are the members of the audience as their doubts turn to real appreciation.

Kate Berube’s paint and ink illustrations communicate John’s feelings and showcase his accomplished athletic performance superbly, perfectly complementing Mac Barnett’s text, which takes the form of a simple pertinent narration that one assumes is by one of John’s fellow pupils.

Wonderfully empowering, this is a gorgeous book about finding the courage to be your true self that will speak to any child.

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