Kids’ books: Spork (Kyo Maclear)

Spork (Kyo Maclear)
Spork (Kyo Maclear)

One of the greatest joys of having children is how I’ve rediscovered the fabulous embrace of public libraries.

It’s a constant enjoyment because the kids are moving through the stacks as they get older and their tastes change.

6.5yo E.’s already dipping into the occasional graphic novel and moving into short novels. I’m finding new authors to catch up on (most recently, Neil Gaiman – I know, I know, I’ve never read Gaiman, but that’s another post). 4yo G. is starting to recognise words and sound them out; he’s moving on from the cardboard books to relatively long narrative picture books.

The other  weekend, I had the added delight of discovering Spork by Kyo Maclear.  The book was on constant rotation when it came home. Usually, little G. eases into the ‘new books’ from the library every week but, with Spork, he was a fan from Day 1. Every night, he’d flip through other books and choose some, but he’d always go to this one and drop it on the bed’s ‘to-read’ pile.

When I saw the author’s name I did a double-take. I know Kyo Maclear. She’s an academic in Asian Canadian Studies. I had read her research, and had colleagues who mentioned Kyo with regularity.

Seeing her turn up as a children’s book author was an absolute thrill. There’s something about finding academics with lives that spill outside of universities that makes me feel better about the world.

How much do I love the story that Spork tells? SO MUCH.

The book opens with “Spork is neither spoon or fork…but a bit of both.” It’s a story about being sidelined because you look different, the limited ways in which society persists in its binaristic view of culture and community, and the value to be found in belonging.

With two ‘sporks’ of my own, the themes and sentiments of the book had additional depth for me. My awareness of Maclear’s deep consideration of racialisation and exclusionary cultural politics adds to my enjoyment of the book and its wonderful illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault.

Her children’s book website – Kyo Maclear Kids – is beautiful, and provides satisfying insights into her work and the books’ back-stories. For Spork, for example, Maclear offers a poignant and effective Personal Note that includes this:

While some individuals may still identify themselves as members of one group or another (socialized perhaps by appearance, their parents, or perceived racism), and while others may switch their declarations at different times in their lives, many are proudly proclaiming their multiracial heritage.

This book was conceived as a celebration of hybridity, an ode to a non-binary world. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Artwork for Spork by  Isabelle Arsenault (Image sourced from "Books my boys love": http://booksmyboyslove.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/spork-by-kyo-maclear)
Artwork for Spork by Isabelle Arsenault (Image sourced from “Books my boys love”: http://booksmyboyslove.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/spork-by-kyo-maclear)

Maclear also has a website for her other booksStray Love and The Letter Opener – that is also well worth checking out. Her writing is engaging, evocative, and clear.

I’ll be delving more into her work (for adults and kids) after stumbling over her children’s books that weekend.

All power to serendipitious discoveries!

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