Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Once upon an ordinary school day

Once upon an ordinary school day

Colin McNaughton
Illustrator:  Satoshi Kitamura 
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005   ISBN: 0374356343

One day a very ordinary boy gets up and does all the ordinary things that every school child does; he gets dressed, has breakfast, kisses his mother goodbye, and walks to school. Once there he plays an "ordinary game of soccer with his ordinary friends" before he goes into his "ordinary classroom." It is at this point that the ordinary part of his day disappears, for a new teacher, Mr. Gee, arrives on scene.

What Mr. Gee wants the children to do is to listen to a piece of music and to write down what the music makes them think of. He wants them to describe the "pictures" that come into their minds as they listen. At first the children think that their new teacher is "bonkers' and "as nutty as a fruitcake" but then some of them start to understand what he is talking about. All at once their minds are flooded with pictures and the ordinary boy in particular finds himself being swept away on the reflections of his imagination. He sees elephants and himself riding on the back of one of them; he sees himself diving in the ocean on the back of a dolphin; he sees himself floating high up in the sky with the birds. The ordinary boy describes all the sights and wonders that he sees and experiences. After he has completed his writing he realizes that Mr. Gee has opened the door on a new and wondrous world for him.

This superb tribute to the power of the imagination and how it can change your life is beautifully crafted. The mood subtly changes as the ordinary boy moves away from his ordinary life into a new one where his thoughts and dreams can take him to wonderful places. The illustrator has cleverly captured this change of mood by rendering the illustrations in the beginning of the book in tones of grey, which change into images full of colour as the ordinary boy takes his first dive into the wonders of his own imagination. By the end of the story, everything is shown in vivid colour - a world full of promise and with new not-so-ordinary possibilities.