“The Book of Changing Things and Other Oddibosities” by Odo Hirsch

Aside from my general glee at finding the name “Hirsch”, I remember quite some time ago hearing wondrous and excited things about this particular one, Odo. I can’t recall the exact friend who recommended him to me, but seeing the hardcover of this in the children section at Civic library reminded me of how energetically and full of joy my mystery reviewer was.

The cover is dark, full of blue morphous creatures with bright white eyes and reddish orange beaks, busy about their own business or contemplating the reader. The art is by Inari Kiuru, and her whimsical figures decorate the text with full-page and scattered smaller black and white sketches. They are so organic and fluid and full of glorious detail that I would give this book to a friend to simply share the art of it all.

The story itself follows a boy called Nathan, notorious for daydreaming, who drifts off during a very dull school assembly into the company of Count Marvy and the changeing squirrel Pogue. There are some very direct and obvious references to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but my favourite parts were the simplicity of the language used, and the running dialogue between the three main characters.

I suppose that I value this book highly because it both exercises the imagination, with its’ imagery, and because like a lot of my favourite children’s novels, it views the world and behaviour of adults with confusion. It’s very easy to forget that children and many adults still find social expectations and taboos as confusing and illogical. As seen in the Mayor’s “Vote for Me Please” badge at the horseradish banquet, for example. No election or actual vote is ever mentioned; the entire affair and his behaviour is baffling and he seems to have no motive or reason for it.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, but I could also while reading it see brilliant opportunities and prompts for the type of pretense play and exploration of confusing adult-introduced concepts that from what I have read are very important to social and educational development. If I had a sprog myself, I’d be running to abebooks to get a copy this very moment.


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