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Spork

by Kyo Maclear; Isabelle Arsenault, illus.

Sporks, those laughable combinations of spoon and fork, have been around for a long time, although they have never quite made it into the mainstream of cutlery. In Kyo Maclear’s first picture book, the spork becomes a metaphor for in-betweenness, a symbol for all those who feel they are not quite this and not quite that.

Spork’s mother is a spoon, his father a fork. They love him dearly, but he can’t help feeling a little out of place alongside the carefully sorted utensils, all of which have a clearly defined shape and use. He tries to fit in by emphasizing first his roundness, then his spikes, but no one is fooled.

Spork eventually finds his place at the table when a “messy thing” shows up in the home, announced on the page by a huge red splash, and gradually revealed to be a toddler. For once, Spork is the perfect instrument: easy to grip, easy to stab and scoop with, and just right for a chubby fist.

Isabelle Arsenault’s flat-looking figures, randomized layouts, and limited colour palate are appropriately unconventional, and reminiscent of the wonderful creations of J. Otto Seibold (illustrator of such beloved books as Olive, the Other Reindeer). In one lovely spread, Spork imagines other combinational creatures, and Arsenault conjures up some fine gadgets – an egg timer with a straw, a cheese slicer/potato masher, a rolling­-pin that doubles as a corkscrew, even a teapot-and-breadknife gizmo.

Spork’s message, that everyone has a place, is perhaps a little bit tired (at least to adults) but bears repeating, especially to “messy things” who have grown up enough to wonder where they fit in life’s table setting.