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Sam & Eva

by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Eva likes Sam’s pony drawing. It’s a velociraptor, says Sam. Eva would like to collaborate. No, says Sam. But that doesn’t stop Eva, who gets started on drawing a marmot anyway. Annoyed by Eva’s insistence, Sam’s hungry velociraptor promptly sets its sights on the girl’s marmot. So begins a ferocious art battle.

Toronto author and artist Debbie Ridpath Ohi has illustrated books by Michael Ian Black and created covers for Judy Blume; she’s known for her quirky style, which can be both playful and dramatic. In her latest picture book, Ohi skilfully depicts the story’s escalating tension through Sam and Eva’s expressions and the progressively aggressive drawings, which seemingly break free from the canvas as the clash intensifies.

Eva’s marmot is a superhero in disguise. Sam’s velociraptor can shoot lightning from its eyes. At one point, Eva says she doesn’t like the story anymore and walks away. Sam keeps going, but the drawings have adopted a mind of their own and are threatening to overtake our pint-sized heroes. Eva comes to the rescue, with an artist’s trick that allows the pair to begin anew.

This whimsical picture book, with its refreshing take on imagination, is ideal for teaching young readers the value of teamwork. The illustrations deftly showcase Sam’s evolution from playful innocence to mean-spirited stubbornness to mature collaboration. Having learned from his mistake, Sam compliments Eva’s unicorn drawing. It’s a triceratops, she says.