Gem by H. Hobbie
Hobbie, Holly. Gem. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. Print.
When we are stuck in a long, cold winter, the beauty of spring seems almost like another world.
The story of Gem is told wordlessly, although it is set between two letters shared between Hobbie and her granddaughter Hope. The pictures convey the beauty and possibilities of spring, as well as the curiosity and compassion of a young girl, but the letters are key to understanding the heart behind the story.
We are introduced to Gem in a letter from Hobbie to her granddaughter Hope, explaining that the long winter had inspired her to think about spring and the toad that Hope had discovered the previous year. Hobby has spent the winter painting the journey that Gem, the toad, may have experienced on his way to Hobbie’s garden. We then meet Gem, as he emerges in the spring and experiences a world full of danger, beauty, mating, and humans. Hobbie’s expressive toad hops through the pages, at times surrounded by the radiance of spring and at times highlighted on a clean, white background. Her use of watercolour, pen, and ink allows for lively paintings with detailed images of main characters. We cheer as Gem escapes run-ins with a vehicle and a hawk, and smile as he finds himself surrounded by his lively offspring. We eventually witness as Hope finds Gem in the garden, releasing him after an inquisitive encounter. The closing images show us the toad enjoying his freedom in the evening light, reaffirming that Hope has made a kind decision. The book closes with a letter from Hope to her grandmother, thanking her for the book and thoughtfully concluding that “Toads are not pets. They want to be free, like everything does”.
Hobbie, author of the popular Toot & Puddle series, showcases her ability to tell a moving story through her vivid artwork. Although Gem is targeted at the two-to-five age range, it could also be used with older children when discussing topics such as spring, nature, and the environment.
Gem transports readers to a world of beauty and compassion, perhaps a place in which we all need to spend a little more time.
Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Hali Hamel
Hali Hamel is a teacher-librarian at Perdue School in Prairie Spirit School Division and is also a graduate student in the University of Alberta’s TLDL program. She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she is enjoying the thrill of rediscovering the world with her young daughter.