I love Maryanne Kovalski. She’s one of those illustrators whose work just shines with kid appeal. Take Omar On Board ( a follow-up to Omar On Ice) for example. Omar is a bear, of the variety that goes to school, has friends, and can skate faster and twirl more gracefully than anyone. But, what happens to a bear with winter talents when summer rolls around? Omar and readers are about to find out at the end-of-school party in Ms. Fudge’s class.
Ms. Fudge wants her class to end their year with a splash and what better way than with a swim meet. Being bears, they head to the pond. Poor Omar! When Ms. Fudge called for floating, he sinks. When it’s time for the backstroke, Omar crashes. Kovalski’s chubby bear isn’t discouraged though. He’s sure that when it’s time to jump off the high board, he’ll be able to leap higher than his classmates. After all, Omar is a champion jumper on ice. Unfortunately, when Omar reaches the top of the diving board, he has other things on his mind―things like worrying. “Finally Omar does the only thing he can do. He turns around, crouches down, and crawls back to the stairs. Once he has made his way down Omar is comforted by friends.
This might appear to be an appropriate ending, but here is one of the places Kovalski shines as a writer. I won’t spoil the end of the story, but Omar does demonstrate that sometimes things we couldn’t do for ourselves, we can do for others.
Of course, Kovalski’s real strength lies in her illustrations. The look on Omar’s face when he is sinking is priceless and Omar’s friend, Elsie is adorable in her pink bathing cap. And Ms. Fudge is pure primary teacher― warm and caring, yet on top of things with her whistle strung around her neck and her sunhat perched securely on top of her head.
Omar On Board is meant for any kid who has not mastered something his peers have been able to do with ease, which pretty much means everyone in my books. You rock MaryAnn, and so does Omar.