Book Spotlight: Spork by Kyo Maclear

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Spork’s mother is a spoon; his father is a fork. He is a combination of both his mum’s concave shape and his dad’s pointy prongs. Unfortunately because of his unusual design, poor Spork is a misfit. Even though he is well loved by his parents who think he is perfect, Spork cannot help but feel ostracised by the rest of the kitchenware. While everyone seems to have a clearly defined shape and use, he’s part of both and wholly of neither. Indeed, the cover of Kyo Maclear’s and Isabelle’s Arsenault’s book features a forlorn looking creature staring at his reflection in a shiny toaster.

Spork explores feelings of inadequacy and the peer group pressure to fit in with the crowd, even if that means devaluing one’s own individuality. Looking or being different was frowned upon in Spork’s world. After all, according to “cutlery customs”, mixing was uncommon despite the odd family consisting of knives who loved chopsticks or tongs who married forks.

Despite trying very hard to assimilate (he puts on a bowler hat to look more spoonish and a paper crown to look more forkish) Spork is never used at the table. Until one day a “messy thing” arrives in the shape of a toddler who finds the spork, “just a bit round, just a bit pointy” but just right for his pudgy, uncoordinated hands.

This is one of those picture books that will appeal to both toddlers and adult as it works on two levels: kids will like the cute drawings of kitchen utensils and adults will appreciate the simple moral behind the tale. When they grow older, toddlers will hopefully understand the message of cultural, sexual and religious diversity and realise the fact that families can consist of different sizes and shapes. Regardless of what you look like there will be someone out there who will love you.

This message of identity acceptance is not delivered in a heavy-handed fashion but treated with cheeky humour. Arsenault’s drawings are mostly in shades of black and grey, enlivened by dabs and splotches of red (the colour palette is reminiscent of Ian Falconer’s Olivia the Pig) while Maclear’s text is suitable for children aged 3+.

Spork is a gentle and entertaining book, suitable as a simple story for the young toddler and as a springboard for further discussions about identity for when they are older.

Book Details:

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Title: Spork

Author: Kyo Maclear

Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN: 9781921759741

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Hardie Grant, March 2011

RRP: $14.95 (aud)

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