Just Because

Just Because
Isabelle Arsenault and Mac Barnett
Walker Books

Would that every young child had a parent as ready and willing to answer the seemingly endless string of questions as the father of the small girl in this book even though her “Why is the ocean blue?” ; “What is rain?”; “Why do leaves change colour?”

and the other posers she puts forward as she lies tucked under her duvet in the dark, are clearly in part a tactic for delaying bedtime.

Quality time is what he provides and never once does he find himself trotting out the titular ‘Just because’.

Instead his responses are flights of fancy: the ocean’s blueness is because ‘the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears’; rain is “The tears of flying fish”; Leaves change colour because “the trees keep warm by setting quiet little fires in their leaves? By winter, their branches have all burned up.” (I love that!).

The answers get increasingly and wonderfully outlandish: The reason dinosaurs disappeared is that “Millions of years ago thousands of asteroids fell on the earth. / But the dinosaurs had planned for this. They fastened themselves to big balloons, floated up to space, and stayed there.”

The ever-patient father’s benedictory finale is surely, pitch perfect to send his little daughter off into her own dream world at last.

Mac Barnett’s story takes creative thinking to a new level that will likely inspire youngsters to think up their own playful answers to the questions his child protagonist poses.

A perfect complement to the telling, Isabelle Arsenault’s mixed media illustrations have a retro feel, while the imaginary worlds she conjures forth are intricately detailed and full of wonderful whimsical otherworldly touches.