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The World is your Oyster by T. James

James, Tamara. The World is your Oyster. Illus. Emma SanCartier.  Vancouver: Simply Read Books, 2009. Print.

It is never a bad thing to introduce children (and other language learners) to the many fascinating idioms, metaphors, and baffling expressions that are key to really understanding English. This nicely-illustrated book strings together twenty-two such sayings, the second half giving feel-good and inspirational sayings to overcome the “feel-bad” descriptions in the first half.

A few examples, however, left me scratching my head. “Some days your world is raining cats and dogs” implies in this story that the world is conspiring against you, or you are overwhelmed by the demands of the world, rather than the more common, simpler interpretation of an extremely heavy rainstorm (although, I suppose, such rain might thwart your long-anticipated plans to play outside). Another example is feeling like you want to “throw yourself to the lions;” I always thought other people were thrown to the lions.

Another quibble with this book is that the extremely literal illustrations do nothing to help illuminate the real meanings of the idioms. A picture of a cute little kitty-cat yanking out a boy’s tongue might be humorous, but says nothing about being at a loss for words. The image of a child and a bull stomping on china plates implies purposeful destruction and anger rather than just being clumsy, gauche, or inconsiderate.

The sayings are important and the artwork is first-rate, but without further explanation, someone unfamiliar with the sayings might be “led down the garden path.”

Recommendation: 2 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: David Sulz

David is a librarian at the University of Alberta working mostly with scholars in Economics, Religious Studies, and Social Work. His university studies included: Library Studies, History, Elementary Education, Japanese, and Economics. On the education front, he taught various grades and subjects for several years in schools as well as museums. His interest in Japan and things Japanese stands above his other diverse interests.