In the latest delightful picture book from Cybèle Young, a little elephant named Nancy struggles to remember something she knows is important. In the process, she recalls many things – just not the one she wants to. It isn’t until, “tired of trying to remember, Nancy stops thinking altogether,” that the important thing pops into her thoughts. The book closes with a gleeful Nancy enjoying a playdate with the friend she has remembered is waiting for her at the park.
Nancy Knows is a great example of the power and charm of simple storytelling. Young’s prose is clear; each brief sentence is composed of carefully chosen words that inspire readers to take their time and savour the story (a fitting approach for a book about memory). But it is Young’s artwork that elevates the narrative to extraordinary heights. Those familiar with Young’s books know that, in addition to writing endearing text, she is an accomplished and talented artist. Since studying sculpture and printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Young has been awarded more than 20 arts grants and awards, including the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s illustration for Ten Birds.
In Nancy Knows, Young once again works her magic, combining intricately detailed miniature paper sculptures (which represent memories) with soft, pencil-sketched outlines of Nancy and her surroundings. The effect is utterly mesmerizing. The images are certain to appeal to any reader who is a fan of highly visual search-and-identify books such as the popular I Spy series, but Young’s interweaving of story and character with her art provides a much richer reading experience. This is the sort of picture book that has the power to create happy memories for its readers.