CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEW: DANDELION BY GALVIN SCOTT DAVIS

DANDELION

Author: Galvin Scott Davis  Illustrator: Anthony Ishinjerro 
Random House RRP $19.99
Review: Monique Mulligan Dandelion, Galvin Scott Davis

“With all my might, you’ll all take flight… If I could but wish for better things, you’d all disperse and grow your wings…”, Benjamin Brewster, Dandelion

When I was a little girl I believed that if you blew on a dandelion flower and made a wish, it would come true. I remember wishing for a yo-yo and that wish did come true. It took about three years, and by then yo-yo’s were ‘so three years ago’, but still, it worked.  Wishing on a magical dandelion is the premise of this creative and touching book with a strong anti-bullying message.

Benjamin Brewster is a very particular little boy who attends the School for the Misguided, a place for never-do-wells and bullies. It’s a forbidding looking place, one where happy thoughts are quick to run and hide, and dreams and thoughts are squished. Every day he dodges the challenges and threats but it’s hard. When he finds a dandelion, he wishes the bullies would take flight, but because he lacks the strength to blow the dandelion, the wish can’t come true. As more and more dandelions appear, he gradually builds the courage needed to force the bullies (and his fear) to take flight. Bullying, after all, is for people with no imagination.

Told in rhyme, with a refrain that encourages children to join in, this is a powerful story that will appeal to early primary school children. However, before reading aloud, you do need to read through it a few times to get the rhythm right. At first reading, the rhythm does seem awkward. I tell stories to under 5s once a week and while I feel this book is too old for the current group, I can imagine reading it aloud, encouraging them to ‘blow’ dandelions for effect and asking them how they would banish bullies. I’m sure their responses would be very creative!

The book is based on a bestselling children’s iTunes app and came about when Galvin Scott Davis’s son experienced bullying. An eBook was released on March 15 in conjunction with Australia’s National Day of Action and Bullying and Violence, and the hardcover is now available, providing parents and teachers a kick start into discussions about bullying.

I was sent the hardcover to review and my eyes were immediately drawn to the gothic-style illustrations used to depict the story. If you’re expecting a bright, colourful, cheery children’s picture book, this is not the book for you; instead, the illustrations are in shades of grey, black and sepia, with the bullies sillhouetted against a grim background. It’s a good choice, given the subject matter. Benjamin is drawn without a face, making it easy for children to insert themselves into the story. The big question I have concerns the story itself: why does Benjamin attend the School for the Misguided? I wasn’t really clear on why he would attend it, since he is neither a ne’er-do-well or a bully. Why would his parents send him to such a school? Could he not have just been walking past?

A recommended discussion starter for parents, teachers and home-schoolers who want to send a strong anti-bullying message. I can see it has a lot of potential and the iTunes app (which allows children to physically ‘blow’ the dandelions in a digital setting) is a terrific reinforcement. Click the image below to view more info about the app.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Available from good bookstores and Random House Australia. This copy was courtesy of Random House.

UPDATE: The author wrote to thank me for the review. He also explained why the school Benjamin attends is called The School for the Misguided. Here’s what Galvin Scott Davis had to say:

“As with the ‘world’ of Dandelion which Benjamin is a part of, we are seeing how he sees the world. ‘The School for the Misguided’ is the name that he sees each morning.”

Thanks Galvin – that helps; Benjamin’s self-worth has suffered badly so it’s from this perspective that he sees the bullies as huge and the school as the place he “deserves”.