Libby The Lobivia Jajoiana
Libby The Lobivia Jajoiana
“Hello,” said the new plant. “I’m an African Violet. What are you? Are you a porcupine?”
“I’m not a porcupine!” replied Libby. “I’m a cactus plant. My name is Libby.”
Libby is a personified cactus plant living in a kitchen windowsill. When comparing herself to the variety of smooth, brightly coloured outdoor plants in the garden overlooking her window, Libby feels different and left out. In fact, Libby feels unworthy of her “special” Latin name: Lobivia Jajoiana. Libby observes how Abigail, their human caretaker, gently touches other flowers in a way which Libby has never experienced due to her spikey nature. An African Violet plant joins Libby on the windowsill, but the attractive new plant makes Libby feel even worse about her appearance. Violet shows off her bright blossoms and boasts about how much attention she receives. However, this attention becomes unwanted when Prea, Abigail’s house cat, bites off some of Violet’s blossoms in the middle of the night. Violet’s petals eventually grow back, and Libby also sprouts a new blossom. With more bright blossoms to prey on, Prea returns to the windowsill—only this time, she tries to take a bite out of Libby’s crimson red bloom. When unexpectedly defeated by Libby’s prickly spines, Prea scurries away. Violet praises the spikes on Libby, and Libby begins to view them as special. The two become friends, and Libby feels worthy of her full Latin name.
This picture book highlights the importance of embracing differences and viewing them as strengths. At times, others may unknowingly hold the power to help boost (or lower) self-confidence in others. Libby feels badly in the beginning of the book for her spiky appearance, but this difference becomes of value when it protects both herself and Violet from being attacked by Prea. However, even after this incident, it is not until Violet shares her admiration for Libby’s needles that Libby recognizes how special they are.
While there are important messages embedded within this story, Libby The Lobivia Jajoiana lacks humour and excitement to captivate a young audience’s interest. Co-authors Regan W.H. Risk and Kevin Macaulay have a wide variety of experience with creative literary works, including a shared background in theatre. This story is better suited for a theatrical play rather than a book. Even if read aloud with expression, the text is underwhelming. Bagshaw fills each page with illustrations, including plant characters with faces showing emotions, but they lack enthusiasm. The majority of the pages are filled with a blurred background, and a relatively small portion features close-ups of the plants.
Overall, Libby The Lobivia Jajoiana is suitable for young children, but it is not a top choice. Other picture books exist that share the same message in a more captivating way.
Andrea Boyd is an early years’ teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently pursuing her Master of Education degree specializing in Language and Literacy at the University of Manitoba.