Belinda Landsberry, Once I Was Loved, EK Books, October 2019, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925820027
Tock, the toy rabbit, finds himself in a box being donated to charity. “But it wasn’t always this way. Once, I was loved.”
Tock reminisces on his previous owners: Sam, Flynn, Max who passes him to his son Toby, Pip, Ziggy, and finally Elyse and makes a comment about the era in which each lived. The reader hears things about World War 2, the effects of the polio epidemic, the 1969 moon landing, rock and roll music, flower power children, the America’s Cup and the internet. As each episode of Tock’s life ends, the refrain returns. “And because I loved him/her, I let [child’s name], go. And so …” The full cycle comes around when it is Sam, now an old lady, who finds Tock in the charity box.
I really enjoyed this nostalgic story but feel it will possibly resonate with adults more than children because the target age-group won’t understand the historic contexts. But those who are exposed to this picture book will learn about some of the events of the twentieth century in a very subtle way and may understand the background of older people in their lives. They may also begin to understand that a toy can be passed to and loved by someone new. The gently hued water colour illustrations reflect the evocative nature of the story.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann