Saturday, March 8, 2014

Omar the strongman by Gregory Rogers

In anticipation of the announcement in April of the Children's Book Council of Australia short listed titles I have been reading all the 2013 Australian picture books added to our library over the last 12 months.  In this post and the next I will talk about two I did enjoy. I hope both might be short listed.

Omar the Strongman opens with a page of suitcases topped by a small fez hat.  On the title page we see a young female elephant who seems to have just tapped a happy, bald, rotund man on the shoulder.  The pair are looking at one another and smiling and the man is carrying the suitcase in one hand while holding his fez in the other. On the next page we see the man striding towards some circus tents.  On his arrival he sees a sign.  "Wanted odd jobs man apply at office." Omar meets the ringmaster - a tiny lady with a friendly smile and big hair -  and she shows him around.

Omar lands the job and we turn to a page I really loved.  We see Omar standing beside a huge pile of cleaning equipment - buckets, an iron, paint and brushes, a wheelbarrow, a hammer, lots of cloths and a spade.  This is certainly a page where the picture "speaks louder than the words."

Omar seems to enjoy all his tasks around the circus but the one he likes best is looking after Mavis - the elephant. Everything is going well until the day the Mayor comes to visit.  Mavis is performing without her beautiful pink bow.  Omar rushes into the main arena holding the ribbon high.  Mavis does not see Omar and she lands right on top of him.  Can you guess what happens next - here is a hint - take another look at the title.

As I thought about this book I listed some of the values that are explored.  Having a cheerful attitude to your work no matter how boring or meanial, the importance of supporting a friend and the idea that  if you allow your heart to be open you might find your true destiny perhaps in a very unexpected way.

Sadly Gregory Rogers died in 2013.  You can read about his life and work here. You might also like to read my review of The Hero of Little Street also by Gregory Rogers.

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