Circle

Circle
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Walker Books

This is the final book in the Shape trilogy that featured first Triangle and then Square as main character; now it’s the turn of Circle.

One day at Circle’s suggestion, the three friends embark on a game of hide-and-seek. Circle stipulates one over arching rule: “No hiding behind the waterfall” because it’s dark there.

Circle completes her counting, only to learn from Square, who has remained static, that Triangle has gone behind the waterfall.

Off goes Circle to find him and as she goes deeper in, the double spreads gradually darken

until everything is black save Circle’s eyes.

Then out of the darkness another pair of eyes appears belonging, Circle assumes, to Triangle. She starts chastising her ‘friend’ but no answer is forthcoming.

There appears a third set of eyes and it’s these, it transpires, that belong to Triangle.

It turns out that the since Square is outside, the other eyes belong to they know not whom. Circle asks the shape before her once again, “Who are you?” and again receives no answer.

Circle and Triangle rush back in fright, back towards the light and the outside where Square is waiting.

Once safely back in the daylight, Circle ponders upon the identity of the shape; perhaps it wasn’t bad after all. “It might have been a good shape. We just could not see it,” she posits.

An important inherent message from Barnett in our xenophobic times no matter which side on the Atlantic we live on.

His story has an open ending, concluding with a question for readers. It does however suggest that we can perhaps overcome our fears by remaining calm and mindful, rather that letting them overwhelm us.

In his watercolour and pencil, digitally worked style illustrations, Klassen portrays the friends’ emotions with his characteristic minimalist, brilliance.

A book to ponder upon and discuss.

Circle and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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Circle
Jeannie Baker
Walker Books
This moving story begins even before the title page with its narrator lying on his bed wishing, “Ahhhh – I wish I could fly!” When next we meet him he’s on the edge of the beach of a nature reserve watching the ascent of a flock of birds …

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They’re shorebirds – godwits embarking on their long journey north. (In an author’s note at the end of the book we are told this species makes the longest unbroken journey of any animal in the world migrating 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to their southern home in Australia – where Jeannie Baker has lived for many years and where this book begins – and New Zealand.)
It’s a journey that will continue for six days and nights ‘until they know they need to stop,’ with each bird taking a turn as leader of the flock. Increasingly their familiar safe resting places have been replaced with high rise buildings …

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so their search for food has become more and more difficult but eventually they find a place to stop and refuel, eating as much as possible from the rich mud at low tide. The focus is on the godwit with white patches on its wings and finally he flies solo on to the place he remembers. There he makes a nest, attracts a mate and a brood of four chicks duly hatch …

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of which only one survives the ravages of a fox.
After many weeks, the chick is fully grown and again it’s time to move on, feed themselves up in preparation for when an icy wind heralds departure time for the godwit family and a returning flock, that now undertake the awesome nine day flight which takes them full circle back south ‘Following an ancient invisible pathway high above the clouds’ … to the other side of the world where a welcome awaits …

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I learned a great deal from this beautiful book. Its lyrical text and stunning collage illustrations make for a memorable account of godwit migration and thought-provoking glimpses of the child narrator whose personal ‘flight’ is left to readers to interpret: seemingly he too has undergone a transformation.

There’s an altogether different journey in:

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Dr Seuss
Harper Collins Children’s Books
From starting at playgroup or in a nursery class, this book, with its weird and wonderful landscapes

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and some strange and on occasion alarming encounters …

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can accompany you or your child through life’s journey with all its highs and lows, uncertainties and unpredictability. It’ll help you take risks, persevere against the odds, take adversity in your stride – (‘I’m sorry to say so/ but, sadly, it’s true/ that Bang-ups/ and Hang-ups/ can happen to you.’); because as Seuss, the rhymer extraordinaire asserts:
So be sure when you step,/ Step with care and great tact/ and remember that Life’s/ a Great Balancing Act. … And will you succeed?/ Yes! You will, indeed!/ (98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
Empowering? Yes. Thought provoking? Ditto!

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