Little Oh by Laura Krauss Melmed , illustrated by Jim LaMarche
published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Book, 1997
Georgia Children’s Book Awards Masterlist book
This little gem of a picture book was highly enjoyable. It features many familiar Asian symbols- with themes focused on the fragility of life, the feelings of longing for having a child, whilst being mixed in with an adventurous romp through the wilderness.
The tale begins in a beautifully simple Japanese style home- with a single mother and her son. She tells him the story of an origami paper doll she makes which magically comes to life. The book follows the paper girl’s capers and finishes in a satisfying manner with the ultimate fairytale ending.
The beautiful illustrations lend well to the exquisite fairytale loveliness – with exotic Asian accents such as cranes, tatami mats, crickets, mandarin oranges, and kimonos. The lonely mother’s face glows with joy when her origami creation becomes animated and turns into a tiny daughter, “Little Oh”.
This is a lovely read aloud- suitable for children age 4 and above. The plot follows the “paper” girl as she gets “lost” . It resolves with how she eventually finds her way home, to her loving family. Children familiar with tales such as; the Gingerbread Baby, or even Hansel and Gretel, or Alice in Wonderland- will summon up memories related to this classic fable of good natured creatures helping to overcome obstacles in the big, bad, real world. They will be reminded, as in those stories that many difficulties can be overcome with perseverance and ingenuity.
Little Oh- employs a useful strategy to comfort herself when in the midst of turmoil and in an unfamiliar setting:
Little Oh sang the songs her mother had taught her and told some of her wonderful stories. That night they shared the crane’s warm nest, lulled to sleep by a tree- frog serenade.
Escaping one scrape and landing quickly into another. The story unfolds. Nature is portrayed as a powerful force, but ultimately one that even a small “child” is able to conquer.
Perhaps one of the most endearing features of this book is the focus on transformation. The paper girl- with her mothers prayers is able to come to life and even to transition her form, into a heart shaped message- designed to attract the attention of a kind hearted man.
I am a paper child, she thought, and I can be whatever I wish! She folded herself carefully into the shape of a heart.
I found this book comforting, like a cozy warm drink -on a drizzly wet day. It reminded me of one of my childhood favorites, ” the Brady Bunch”-
Here’s the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story, of a man named Brady,
Who was busy with three boys of his own,
They were four men, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group must somehow form a family.
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
The Brady Bunch,
The Brady Bunch,
That’s the way we became the Brady Bunch.