This review was first published in a simplified form (only Binky to the Rescue was reviewed) in Resource Links Magazine, Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults. It appears in volume 15.2.
Binky the Space Cat and Binky to the Rescue
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Ashley Spires, Kevin Sylvester, and Kathryn Shoemaker and Irene Watts present their work as authors and illustrators to a crown of young students at the Vancouver International Writers’ (and Readers’) Festival (28 Oct. 2010). It was fascinating to see how different Spires’s and Sylvester’s techniques were—both as illustrators and presenters—and yet how similar their message to aspiring young artists was: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! We both make mistakes, have regrets, and still love our work! Keep at it! (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) The children loved the presentation, almost, I believe, as much as they love Binky the Space Cat and Binky to the Rescue. And with good reason. Binky has something for everyone to love: aliens; slap-stick humour; a cute, cleverly drawn, comic kitty. And as Spires said, “who wouldn’t want to draw a little cat?” Spires admits “I’m an illustrator first, so when I come at a story or an idea, I come at it from a drawing perspective,” which accounts for the subtle humour that is hidden in the images, augmenting rather than overpowering the narrative.
In Binky the Space Cat, Binky designs his space craft, protecting his carefully constructed plans from the prying eyes of the enemy, who could be anywhere. When in Binky to the Rescue, Binky’s adventures take him out of his “space station” (house) for the first time, the narration from his perspective—in contrast to the readers’ recognition of quotidian home-life—forms the humour of the tale on one level. The subtle expressions on his seemingly static face—caused by slight changes to the line of eye and mouth—add significantly to the readers’ enjoyment of Binky’s imaginary world. I have loaned my copies to a girl of 6, who loves them. But they were purchased for my son, who is 13. Binky’s joie-de-livre and cleverly narrated imagination captivate the hearts of young and old alike; we can’t wait for Spires’s next addition to the Binky Adventures series.