Quill and Quire

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The Most Magnificent Thing

by Ashley Spires

Having retired her much-loved Binky the Space Cat series, Saskatoon author-illustrator Ashley Spires turns her attention to a girl and her dog in her latest picture book. The inseparable pair plays, eats, explores, and relaxes together. One day the girl decides she is going to make something “magnificent.” Unfortunately, the project doesn’t come together as quickly or easily as hoped, and it’s up to her trusty canine assistant to help her find the perspective she needs to finish the job amid her growing frustration.

Spires includes some clever visual twists to engage early readers: the girl’s hands grow as she becomes more frustrated, making her movements less effective and causing her to feel farther away from her goal with every iteration of the magnificent thing. Throughout, the dog acts like a Greek chorus, expressing and amplifying what the girl feels or thinks. The text hums with description, as Spires employs a rich vocabulary to tell readers what the girl is up to. For example, the girl doesn’t simply make, fix, or mend; she saws, glues, and adjusts. As her irritation grows, she smashes, jams, and pummels pieces together.

The overall impression is positive, but the pace suffers from the flurry of words, and the story is too long and didactic to earn favoured-book status. Still, Spires’s buddy tale of overcoming obstacles and learning to manage expectations will likely find an appreciative audience, especially in a classroom setting.