Sid the Sasquatch
Written by Wendy Elliott
Illustrated by Joseph Cowman
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing (July 2016)
A few weeks back, during our live coverage of Planet Comicon in Kansas City on SciFi4Me, I snuck down to the convention floor to chase down a few leads on a story I want to look into. While I was out there, a kids-looking Sasquatch book caught my eye. Unfortunately, my wallet was back at the livestream stage and most vendors don’t take business cards for payment.
Fortunately, my colleague Maia was interviewing author Wendy Elliott about her new children’s book, which – just my luck! – was that same book. The convention gods had smiled upon me! Before I knew it, I was ready to sit down with my daughter and a brand new book to share.
Make no mistake, Sid the Sasquatch is a great book to share. The story, which follows a curious and playful Sasquatch child named Sid, is written in a rhyme. This creates both predictable pacing and a chance to let my daughter guess what happens next in the story. We see Sid’s family and world from his point of view, with its similarities and differences in clear and amusing illustrations by Joseph Cowman. Quite apart from the way I’ve always thought of a sasquatch, Sid and his family enjoy a downright cozy existence, always careful to remain out of view of the dangerous humans. But, just like my favorite mermaid Ariel, Sid’s curiosity about the world of humans constantly gets the best of him.
Having watched about ten thousand hours of Disney movies, I was immediately sure I knew exactly where this was going. Sid watches the humans from afar but internalizes the warnings from his parents that humans are dangerous. When faced with a human quite by surprise in the forest, though, he is pleasantly surprised by the boy Ollie’s kindness. As a parent, I was even more pleasantly surprised at Elliott’s nod to the subtle surveillance that all parents do when their children are playing: Sid looks back to his mother, who had been quietly trailing him, for assurance that this situation was safe.
From there, the book shows an immediate and apparently steadfast bond between Sid and Ollie. Each boy has something to teach the other, while the children reading along are able to see cooperation and friendship between two who were taught to fear the other. As an adult, this seems a little heavy-handed at times, but it’s a message that is clearly understood by my 5 year old.
After the initial read – difficult, at times, by some awkward stretches in the rhyme scheme – I put down the book and asked my daughter what she thought this book was supposed to teach us. (This is a familiar tactic that children of educators are subjected to, so she put on her characteristic thinking face). “Well,” she said slowly, “I think…it’s definitely about being good to people.” I nodded encouragingly. “And about how even when you think somebody is going to be scary or mean, maybe they’re not and you should try to be friends.” Then she smiled, and added, “If I take off Ollie’s skin and Sid’s skin, they have the same skeleton!”
This is an important, if macabre, message to take away. Under our very different looking skins, we’re basically the same. Sid the Sasquatch takes a new angle to that same old lesson, and in a way that speaks to children without exasperating adults. Between the melodic writing and the beautifully illustrated pages, I can see this joining the regular rotation of reading at our house.
I’m a friend of Sid. How about you?