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Dorothy Morris. Illustrated by Victor Gad.
Toronto, ON: Three Trees Press, 1986.
unpaged, paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-88823-116-4. cloth, $12.95. ISBN 0-88823-114-8. CIP.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10

Reviewed by Jane Robinson.

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

Set in Grassaland, an imaginary village in the middle of a dry, desert climate, Bowbo's Shade-Tree is a fable about the invention of the straw hat and sandals. Bowbo is a young boy who works all day in the fields planting grain seeds. His ambition to do little more than sit under his shade-tree to escape "Old Man Sun" leads him to invent the straw hat and, subsequently, sandals. He goes into business with his friend Pocko and together they find a way to improve the working conditions of the villagers, while they enjoy the shade from Bowbo's tree.

The story and the characters are as lifeless as the surroundings. There is very little that would appeal to children as there is a lot of text with many lengthy, complex sentences and very little action. The story moves slowly as Bowbo endeavours to escape his lot in life, and there is no relief for the reader from either the style of writing or the illustrations. Characters are depicted in robotlike poses and there is an uninspiring sameness in their expressions, postures, and even their clothes.

Perhaps first-time author Dorothy Morris meant Bowbo's Shade-Tree to be a tongue-in-cheek look at free enterprise and private manufacturing. But it misses the mark for its intended audience of children. It lacks the humour needed to bring out the subtlety of the theme, and deals with a situation that is unquestionably larger than life.

Not recommended.

Jane Robinson, Greenway School, Winnipeg, MB.
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