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Three by the Sea Hardcover – April 5, 2011
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Grey, one of the more inventive picture-book creators working these days (Traction Man Is Here! 2005; Egg Drop, 2009), offers a beguiling little parable in her latest offering. Dog, who handles the gardening chores, Cat, who cleans house, and Mouse, who oversees the kitchen, live a blissfully quiet existence in a little shack by the sea. But then a shady fox shows up, representing the Winds of Change Trading Company and questions whether their friendship is really living up to expectations. Dog is only burying bones in the garden, Cat�s napping instead of dusting, and Mouse�s menu is incessantly fondue-based. The roommates squabble, then make up after a little crisis and move on with their lives, more aware of each other and how their roles can blend together. The artwork is standard-issue outstanding for Grey, with creative dollops of collage, endearing animal characters, and detail-strewn settings. With a complex resolution that refreshingly eschews any simple message, this book offers a nice opening to discuss how change may be both unwanted and stressful, yet ultimately welcome. Grades K-2. --Ian Chipman
"Grey, one of the more inventive picture-book creators working these days , offers a beguiling little parable."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2011:
"Grey’s wonderfully expressive, richly textured mixed-media collages leap and bound with funny details (like the "All-Purpose Flakes" box in the kitchen, perfect for both baking and bathing). Vivacious design elements such as comic-strip–like panels for action sequences and cut strips of type for the dialogue in the climactic fight add further fun. The clear, clever text—rendered in a large font—is as fresh and invigorating as the rest."
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Afterward, we discussed how the fox (and his "winds of change") may or may not be real. It's open to interpretation, as the previous reviewer noted. We also discussed how sometimes a "family" can be defined as any people that care for one another and decide to stick together through thick and thin like the characters in this charming book.
One night, just as the trio are enjoying their dinner of cheese fondue, there is a knock at the door. A fox, nattily dressed in a yellow and brown striped suit, stands smiling on their threshold. He invites himself in and announces he is from the Winds of Change Trading Company, a company that helps fix your life, when you may not even know something is amiss. Not to worry, it is absolutely free.
The next morning, Fox observes the household, asking questions and making observations. He mentions to Mouse that it seems a bit odd that Dog plants only bones in the garden. Fox asks Cat if he isn't a bit tired of eating cheese fondue every night, and he tells Dog it seems unfair for Cat to be napping while he should be dusting. Fox opens his Winds of Change Trading Company suitcase and produces free gifts for each of them: cooking magazines for Mouse, tinned fish for Cat, and a fancy collar for Dog.
With his gifts, Fox has planted seeds of doubt in the household. Suddenly, the three friends are arguing fiercely, each feeling unappreciated by the other two. It takes a disastrous event (the near drowning of Mouse) for them to remember they are the best of friends. When they return to their hut near the sea, Fox is gone, along with their boat, but has left behind several packets of herb seeds as a parting gifts.
From that day forward, the housemates make changes to their routine. They plant an herb garden together, and plan new meals. They share the work rather than divide it, and frolic together on the beach. So really, the Fox and his mysterious suitcase turned out to be a good thing. Or was it? These three actually were quite content before he pointed out the reasons they shouldn't be. But then he did provide them with some tools to repair their relationship. So was was the effect of the Winds of Change Trading Company? I think this is a story that is open to interpretation.