Tigger and Jasper’s New Home – Children’s Book Review
Author Cheryl Gillespie and illustrator Michael LeBlanc open a unique door into the life of a blind woman, and her love for her two cats.
Cheryl Gillespie is blind. She has been since her early childhood. It’s a telling fact about this unique indie author that makes her desire to create a children’s picture book all the more intriguing. It’s abstract, eye-catching art a sight she’ll never see for herself. An award-winning pianist and music teacher, she hails from Fredericton New Brunswick, Canada and teamed up with her brother-in-law, Michael LeBlanc, to create Tigger and Jasper’s New Home. It’s now available in digital form alongside the print edition, which was first published way back in 1996.
Despite starring a little girl called Christie, Tigger and Jasper’s New Home is in fact Cheryl Gillespie’s own true story. The kittens Tigger and Jasper were born on May 20, 1990, and have long since passed away. However, their impact on a blind Canadian lady is clearly warmly remembered. In fact, before you even start reading, there’s a powerful emotional backbone to this title you can’t ignore. If most of us can only imagine what life might have been like for a young blind girl, Cheryl Gillespie lived it. So she knows exactly what having two feline best friends meant to her.
Tigger and Jasper’s New Home – Story Review
Tigger and Jasper’s New Home starts in Douglastown, a small village hugging the Gulf of St Lawrence on Canada’s south-eastern coast. We meet our two newborn kittens, who dream of a life away from all the scary loud noises of their farm. Their dreams are realised when they are gifted to a new owner called Christie. Christie’s piano playing replacing the tractor sounds, as she sings to herself and teaches children all about music.
However, over the course of the book and a series of misadventures, the two cats discover their new owner is blind. They embrace this difference, and we get a powerful sensation of the symbiotic relationship that forms between a blind owner and her pets. Both so heavily reliant on the other and willing to accept their flaws so completely. I adore the way Cheryl Gillespie’s word choice reveals how a blind individual “sees” the world. On that note alone, I’m better for having read this book. Plus, I feel I can use it as an entry point to explain blindness to my children.
I’m a big fan of Michael LeBlanc’s art. Bright and relatively simplistic, the images smartly keep the perspective from that of the two kittens. The soft, lazy edges to each image work in the book’s favour to further capture that feeling of looking back into the past. It’s almost like a dream. A book of such honesty deserved this kind of organic art. And mixing in a few background-less character images also adds nice flair to the package.
The inclusion, at the book’s finale, of a song is the perfect ending. A connection between Christie the young blind lady and Cheryl the veteran, award-winning musician. This is an easy book to like and I highly recommend it.
Tigger and Jasper’s New Home – Technical Review
As much as I enjoy Tigger and Jasper’s New Home, I would have liked to have seen more done with the layout of the new digital edition. While it works on larger devices, on smaller screens it suffers a tad. It’s certainly readable, but more space could have been given to the images. The relationship between the images and the text is sometimes out of whack, too. For example, splitting a paragraph of text from the page with its related image, but positioned before it. As such, the visualisation of the scene comes after the text, which is not ideal for kids. There are also some overly text-heavy sections, and I would have preferred to have seen these split by more art to help hold a child’s attention.
None of the issues are present in the print edition, which has a more flowing feel and doesn’t feel as overweighed by text. With facing pages, the art and text fit more snugly together. I do however think a big misstep was taken with the cover, which goes for a hand-drawn title. This looks amateurish, and I fear could turn many people away from the cleaner, more enjoyable layout within.
The read itself is enjoyable. Cheryl Gillespie’s descriptive word choice paints the settings and the interactions between the characters in a way that encourages a child’s imagination to take flight. I like how it focuses in on certain sounds and sensations, and how they impact the characters. It’s immersive, allowing the reader to feel each moment. There’s little I would feel compelled to change if attacking it with my editor’s cap on, which is a good sign.
Where to Next?
Are you looking for more great children’s books, then visit the Old Mate Media library. If you are an author or illustrator looking to make their own children’s book, look through our services in the main menu. Alternatively, read our step-by-step guide. For authors and illustrators already published who would like to have their book reviewed, then head here to learn more.