DetailsJosh's mom thinks Josh is too old for Mr. Humphries, his teddy bear. But when Josh has to stay at the summer cottage with Grandpa, it's Mr. Humphries who keeps him company at night in the attic room, on the long dark walks to the outhouse, and even for boat rides on the lake. When Mr. Humphries has anadventure of his own, Josh isn't sure he's ready to let him go.
- Additional Information
ISBN 9781927756072 Publication Date Oct 1, 2013 Author Lohans, Alison Illustrator Ehrsam, Gretchen Pages 40 Size 8.00″ x 8.00″
Customer Reviews 2 item(s)
- Retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, B.C.
Prolific author Alison Lohans was born in the United States but has lived in Saskatchewan for many years. Her earlier works have been published by Orca Books, Dundurn Press and Thistledown, among others, but she has produced this one through a small self-publishing company, Your Nickel's Worth Publishing.
Young Josh is spending time at a lakeside cottage while his mother is on a business trip. Aunt Judy and Grandpa do their best to introduce the boy to their rustic life, but Josh is clinging to his stuffed bear, Mr. Humphries, for comfort in an unfamiliar situation.
At bedtime I miss mom. My bed’s in the attic. The spooky attic! It’s filled with furniture and boxes and puzzles and books. Spiders too. Grandpa slept here when he was a boy, but I don’t like it.
I hug Mr. Humphries’ fuzzy self against me.
Josh gains confidence as the days go by, learning to row a small boat and to appreciate nature; and even finding the courage to use the outhouse in the dark. Then, a dramatic episode: Aunt Judy has warned Grandpa about going out in the boat without her, but he and Josh opt for adventure.
We glide, rock, splash, in the waves.
Then Grandpa sneezes. The oars clank in the oarlocks. The loon dives.
‘Oh, no!’ Grandpa says. An oar is floating away.
Grandpa reaches. But I’m closer. I hold on tight
And lean over the water. Grandpa holds on to me.
The boat tips - and I grab the oar.
Grandpa puts it in the oarlock.
‘Well done, Josh,’ he says.
The loon is gone.
And so is Mr. Humphries.
With Josh’s newfound sense of self, even the loss of his faithful companion toy is overcome in the end.
Lohans’ writing is crisp and descriptive. The characterization of loving older relatives taking care of an anxious child in their simple way is touching. Josh shows real growth in the course of his visit.
Gretchen Ehrsam, who is Lohans’ cousin, has illustrated a story which consists in large part of outdoor scenes rendered in a scratchboard technique. The pictures capture the atmosphere of lakeside life - I especially liked the spread with the loon in the foreground of sparkling water surrounded by trees. However the colour is sometimes on the muddy side, and some of the human figures are awkwardly rendered.
Leaving Mr. Humphries is a book for school and public library collections.
There are some writers you can always depend on to turn out a good book, regardless of the genre. I first knew Regina author Alison Lohans as a short story writer for young adults. She’s also impressed me with her novels and children’s books. The ability to genre-hop and keep the literary standards at high-bar are Lohans’ trademarks, so I’m not surprised that Leaving Mr. Humphries, her tender story about a child reluctant to let go of his stuffed blue teddy bear, Mr. Humphries, also delivers a read that simultaneously entertains and plucks at the heart-strings.
This book is the result of a familial collaboration: it’s illustrated by Gretchen Ehrsam, Lohans’ American cousin, who-like the author-enjoyed childhood vacations at the family’s cottage in Dorset ON.
What first impressed was how quickly I was engaged. With kids’ books, writers don’t have the luxury to slowly beguile readers, and Lohans instantly gets us into the main character’s head and heart-space.
Josh is the protagonist. His mother is off to “a conference in the city,” and he’ll have to stay with Grandpa and Aunt Judy at their cottage. “My insides have a lonely, hurting feeling. I hold on tight to Mr. Humphries,” we read on page one. The story unfolds in clear, short sentences-the kind a child might “think” in-and images are credibly presented in the same way: “[Aunt Judy] helps me into a fat orange life jacket.”
As three generations enjoy a motorboat ride, outdoor meals (“Bugs bang into the screens but they can’t get us”), pie baking, and exploring, Lohans does a superb job of keeping the story in Josh’s young voice. She also believably demonstrates his anxiety re: sleeping in the attic, where “bats flap and squeak,” and using the outdoor toilet in the dark, raccoon-filled night. As long as Josh has the security of Mr. Humphries, he manages well.
A secondary theme in this book is aging. Josh frequently notes his grandfather’s advanced age. “Mr. Humphries and I wade in the lake while Grandpa sits in a chair,” Lohans writes. The boy sees his grandfather as “old and shaky,” and his hands shake when he works on a jigsaw puzzle. His daughter warns him not to take the boat out alone.
Lohans is also a musician, and her use of sound in this book stands out. She writes: “On the lake, a loon makes lonely sounds,” “feet clang on the metal steps,” and “Hummingbirds whir at the feeder.” Josh notes how “The bottom of the boat scrunches on sand” and “Water slurps and splashes.”
There are no notes on the accompanying full-page illustrations, but they look like woodcut prints and perfectly mirror the story’s subject and tone.
Regardless of their intended audience, children’s book have to first pass muster with the wallet-holders. Free copies are generally part of the payment for book reviewers, so I asked myself this: were I not reviewing Leaving Mr. Humphries, would middle-aged me buy this book? You bet your blue teddy bear I would.