Spork written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press, 2010
Recommended for ages 3 to 6
Just last week, a mom came into my library looking for a good book for her kindergartner about self-acceptance. Her daughter had been feeling rather down ever since she had corrective eye surgery and had wear an eye patch for a few months. I couldn’t find any books for that exact situation, but after doing my best biblio-therapy exam and consulting with some fellow practitioners, I prescribed a few books featuring characters who start out different, feeling the pressure to conform, and end up rejoicing in their uniqueness. I handed the mom Yoko, Chrysanthemum, and Spork.
Little Spork is neither spoon (like his mum) nor fork (like his dad.) He is a bit of both. The other utensils continually ask him “What are you anyway?” and he is never picked as a table setting or included in games of pea hockey. And although is parents assure him that he is perfect and they love him just the way he is, poor Spork is lonely and wishes to be “just one thing” instead of a mishmash of two. While Spork’s journey towards self-acceptance is predictable, his attempts at fitting in are still playful and Arsenault’s endearing illustrations prevent the book from veering into heavy, overly didactic territory. Preschoolers and kindergartners will chuckle, while parents and teachers might find opportunities for discussion.
Arsenault’s mixed media and digitally assembled artwork takes the spotlight in this slightly tongue-in-cheek, cute, but not groundbreaking, book. Arsenault skillfully utilizes color and texture. Her limited palette of greys, dusty pastels, and smart pops of muted reds lend the book a visual sophistication, while the cartoon-style sweetness of the characters’ facial expression keep it accessible for younger readers/viewers.
I especially liked Maclear’s introduction of “the messy thing” that spilled and flung food all around. Allowing the reader to know something before the character does (i.e.; that it’s a baby) is a great way to empower the preschool audience, engage them in discussion, and include them in the punchline.
Spork did remind me a lot of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Spoon. I enjoy both books and like to think these two characters might inhabit the same kitchen. Use them together in a utensil-themed storytime and pair with a craft like this: