Since I began the month with a Perfect Picture Book illustrated by Debbie Ohi, I’m Bored,  it seemed appropriate to end the month with one illustrated by her sister, Ruth Ohi. This is the second book written by Hazel Hutchins and illustrated by Ruth Ohi that I have featured as a Perfect Picture Book choice. The other was One Duck.

Title: The Sidewalk Rescue

Author: Hazel Hutchins

Illustrator:  Ruth Ohi

Publisher: Toronto: Annick Press, 2004

Genre: Picture book, fiction

Audience Age: 4-8 years

Themes and topics: imagination, adventure, fantasy, art, community, cooperation

Opening Sentences: The day Morgan’s little sister drew a beautiful picture on the sidewalk and then jumped right inside to pick the flowers, Morgan raced into the house to tell her parents.

“Help, help, help!” she cried. “Josie is being chased by a huge, gigantic, mean and nasty lion.”

Synopsis: In this delightfully imaginative adventure, each experience builds on the last, heightening the tension dramatically. To save Josie from the lion, Morgan’s mother takes the chalk and draws a boat on the sidewalk, which she thinks “should do it” — but it doesn’t. The boat is heading toward a waterfall! The rescue scenario that Morgan’s dad draws on the sidewalk leads to another calamity. Neighbors, passersby, the mail carrier, all get into the project of trying to save Josie, drawing more and more pictures on the sidewalk. Nothing works. Each rescue attempt just makes things worse. Finally it is up to Morgan to rescue her little sister – but you’ll have to read the book to find out just how she does that.

Why I like this book: The story is intriguing, well-written, and lots of fun, but it is the illustrations that particularly captured my imagination. The detailed, full-color pictures of the excitement that is being played out in the story carries the reader along on the adventure – while in reality, the marks on the sidewalk are simple line drawings. Did this really happen? Or did everyone simply get caught up in the imaginary play of two little girls with a bucket of colored chalk?

Activities/Resources: Children will enjoy learning how Hazel Hutchins thinks up her stories, from the “How I Write” page on her website,  as well as learning about becoming an illustrator from the FAQ page on Ruth Ohi’s website.

This book would provide a great stepping-stone for getting children to make up and tell their own adventurous tall tales. It’s also a chance to get out the sidewalk chalk and have kids draw whatever comes into their imaginations. Just be aware – when I googled “sidewalk chalk drawings for kids” I learned that in more and more places, there are city bylaws in place against chalk drawing on public sidewalks. A simple alternative would be to use a long piece of paper (such as from newsprint “ends” – the rolls of paper that are often available at your local newspaper) and draw an epic mural on that.

Availability: Available in paperback in some places. Worth searching for.

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”

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