by Eric Walls
Horizon Light Media (SP)
Silent Sally never speaks,
Not one word, or at least,
Not a one the other kids can hear.
In fact, she just may be
The quietest they’ve ever seen.
To them she’s different, that much is clear.
But when Sally finds a need,
A need where she can be
A great help to her class, her school, and her town.
Without wasting time,
She’s always first in line
To jump right in and get the job done.
Silent Sally is an elementary student who chooses to speak less than normal. When she sees something that needs done, or someone who needs help, without a word she is the first—and sometimes the only—one to lend a hand. Of course, her classmates think this is rather odd behavior.
When the kids have a food fight in the cafeteria, Sally is sitting by herself, quietly eating her lunch. A teacher walks in to check on the commotion and slips on a spill. All the students become quiet. Only Sally lends a hand, even escorting the teacher to the office.
Because Sally helped the teacher, the school throws a celebration, which only embarrasses Sally. On the day of the party, Sally is not in attendance. While everyone has gathered in the school to celebrate, Sally is grocery shopping for a neighbor who cannot get out. Through all of the deeds Sally has done the students finally understand. The principal, pleased that the student’s understand they need to be DOERS, declares the day a school holiday. The kids all leave, but instead of going home they span out across the neighborhood doing good deeds, and helping where needed.
The story’s message is a good thing for kids to grasp while they are young and can develop this principle into habit. According to a note to the parents, the story has its basis in James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (KJV) The author is trying to impress upon kids that they should not just listen to what is said in Sunday Service but to act upon what they have heard, serving with compassion and sacrifice, not for attention or other praise.
The story is made of six line stanzas. Initially, a rhyme scheme of aabccb is used. The third stanza abandons the rhyme scheme, though occasionally the author returns. This inconsistency makes the story a difficult read in terms of flow. I found myself stopping and starting, wondering if I had read it correctly. I had.
When one is expecting to read a rhyming text and it suddenly stops or takes on odd patterns, it becomes difficult to read. By page five, I wanted to shut the cover, never to return. Writing stories that rhyme are extremely difficult. Two lines that begin rhyming cannot stop simply because the word one wants to use does not rhyme. Find a word that rhymes or write the story as prose, with correct punctuation. The reader should be able to read a story, prose or rhyming, without needing to think about every word.
The author has also made the illustrations. He has been a character animator for twenty years working on Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Bolt among others. This expertise shows in the high quality and consistency of the characters. Each spread contains several vignettes of students noticing Sally picking up toys, helping a teacher, picking up dropped books, and other good deeds. The illustrations tell the story better than the text, which needs a good dose of editing to straighten out the inconsistencies.
Having a great message for kids is not the most important thing in a story. The story is most important and the story needs a consistent pattern when using rhyme that allows a smooth read, especially important when reading aloud. Sometimes rhyming, almost rhyming (a slant rhyme), and not rhyming is confusing and difficult to read. Silent Sally’s writing is haphazard and frustrating.
For me, the message can be great and the illustrations can be wonderful, but if I cannot read it consistently—if a rhyme scheme is not consistently used—the story flops.
Silent Sally needs some major editing by someone well versed in writing in rhyme. That accomplished Silent Sally would be a winner in my book. Sure, not everyone cares about writing rules and many will not care if the stanzas or rhyme scheme is consistent. As a reviewer, I do not have that luxury, nor do I want it.
Eric Walls, author/illustrator website facebook blog Horizon Light Media (SP) website Released 2012 ISBN: 978-0-9846833-0- 32 pages Ages: 4 and up . Copyright © by Eric Walls, used with permission.
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