The song of Lewis Carmichael by Sofie Laguna

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The Song of Lewis Carmichael is a beautiful book for children.  It is written by Sofie Laguna  and illustrated by her husband Marc McBride. Both Laguna and McBride are highly acclaimed in their fields; writing and illustrating respectively. They have two young sons and this may partially explain how and why two such talented, creative people could collaborate to produce such a book for children. This is the kind of book that takes children to another dreamlike and yet seemingly real world of whimsical adventure. It is a delight.

There is an old-fashioned quality to the drawings which are done by hand with 2B pencil in Adobe Photoshop. The font is unusual in that it is blue on white and the story is about cold, cold places. Mathew Zajac, a young boy, is our central character. He is a lonely, only child who is obsessed with the North Pole. He feels that he is a disappointment to his parents because he doesn't understand how to enter the games of other children. He feels that his parents need another child to compensate for his shortcomings.  

One night Mathew is woken by a crow that enters his dormer window. The crow, Lewis Carmichael, invites him on an adventure to the North Pole. Mathew and Lewis sail off in a beautiful hot air balloon.  Great danger and adventure befalls both of them. Lewis is Mathew's constant companion throughout and as the story unfolds so does the song that Lewis sings about Mathew. Mathew learns to face down great fear, solve difficult problems (like how to adjust the gas release and pressure in the balloon) and to triumph over complete exhaustion in his struggles with the fierce polar weather, the Arctic Wolves and a deadly mother Polar Bear.  With the encouragement of Lewis Carmichael, Mathew prevails and matures enough to say to his parents on his return, "I need you to trust me to find my way."

There are inexplicable, magical aspects to The Song of Lewis Carmichael. There is a crying sound that Mathew keeps hearing and responding to. Not everything is clear. The whys and the wherefores exist, as in all good stories, for the reader to ponder. The story unfolds within a time-slip... a cleft between two worlds...a dream. 

 This is wonderful storytelling and a chance for children to travel into the world of imagination and dreams. Wait - was it a dream or did Mathew really sail off to the North Pole and return all in the space of a day? Young boys aged around eight years would really benefit from reading this book and being transported to the harsh and wonderful world of the Arctic in a hot air balloon with a boy their own age and a crow called Lewis Carmichael.

Themes: Arctic, Friendship, Finding courage.

Wendy Jeffrey