Thursday, June 28, 2018

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Felicita Sala

This had very strong reviews and I've liked some of Ellen Potter's books, but I'll be honest; it just didn't click for me.

Hugo, a Sasquatch, lives in a vast cave system with his family and friends. He's a "squidge" or child, and still learning how his world works. In the Sasquatchs' world, humans are terrifying monsters, always to be avoided and feared. Hugo and the other squidges learn to sneak and hide, to identify forest foods to eat, and eventually they will perform the Acts of Bravery and become grown-up! Or, at least, slightly bigger squidges.

But Hugo is curious about the Big Wide World. When he messes up their sneaking practice and endangers the whole class, he retreats to his room and, on a whim, sends a message out via a toy boat and the stream that runs through his cave. And a human boy writes back. Through their letters, the two become friends. But can a human and a Sasquatch be friends? And what will happen when there's a misunderstanding and the human boy won't talk to Hugo anymore? Even more scary, what if his family finds out?

I saw the illustrations in a galley, so they were unfinished. They look like quirky, black and white sketches. Both Hugo and the human boy, Boone, have white skin. It's a gentle, sweet read, emphasizing the meeting between two cultures and how both Hugo and Boone are afraid of each other until they meet and discover that there are good and bad Humans and good and bad Sasquatches.

What bothers me about this though, is that it doesn't correspond to actual history. Whatever your feelings about the existence (or otherwise) or Sasquatch, Bigfoot, and other crypto-creatures, historically when "primitive" cultures have met "civilized" cultures it almost universally ended badly for the primitive culture. So the Sasquatch's fear of humans is, actually, really well-founded. Ultimately, I felt like this was one of those "if we just sit down and talk we'll all get along" fantasies that overlooks the very real and tragic experiences of many marginalized cultures over many years.

Verdict: I'm not opposed to books that engender tolerance of other cultures in children, and I've no problem with Sasquatch (although I personally think that if it existed they would have found poop). But this just left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since both characters were, rather blindingly, white (even if one is covered mostly in fur). For funny Bigfoot stories stick to the Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry and for books that introduce children to other cultures, try books that actually feature real people with real experiences.

ISBN: 9781419728594; Published 2018 by Amulet/Abrams; ARC provided by publisher for review

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