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Elsie Zahara Can Do it Herself (2015)

Written by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson

Illustrated by Katrina Revenaugh

Cut Paper

Huntly Rahara Press

I can't believe it's been over two years since I reviewed Eileen and Katrina's first book, Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT?, and I was very pleased to see that the two of them had now released a second book.

I was at first a bit surprised by the differences between the two, however... Roland Humphrey - about a boy wanting to dress as a girl - was a very hot-button issue, whereas Elsie Zahara is about a girl who is growing up and yearning for independence, as all kids do, seems much more conventional.... Well, maybe not so thematically different after all, upon reflection, they're very much connected: bravely being oneself in a world in which we are told to conform.

"Family, gather round," she managed in a wobbly voice.
Her serious expression conveyed this wasn't a choice.

"I know I'm just little and there is still lots I can't do
but how am I ever going to learn if you won't let me try something new?"

As with Roland Humphrey, the story is told through rhyming verse, not something I'm always a huge fan of, but Eileen really infuses the writing with great dialogue and rhymes which aren't at all too obvious, like this couplet from later in the story:

Breakfast became a more pleasurable affair,
and with wider berth to practice pouring, spillage became rare.

Now that I've become friends with Eileen and have seen pictures of her and her family, I'm able to appreciate how well Katrina is able to capture their likeness through her artwork. Using different textures for the walls and the floors, and filling the pages with crumpled clothes and cluttered tables, all of the pages looked very lived-in, and lent the story a greater reality and urgency.

Elsie is able to successfully convince her family that she is old enough to begin doing things herself and to take on responsibility in small measures. She is on her way toward being a mature grown up... while still wearing tu-tus and snorkeling masks.

Dressing herself became more fun too
when she had freedom to pair orange plaid with florals in blue

Mommy had come to realize that it was more important to give Elsie a chance
"Does it really matter," she laughed, "if you wear matching pants?"

Really great to see both Eileen and Katrina continuing their partnership with something that is more nuanced and well-plotted, their growth is apparent!

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