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Wee Gillis    by Munro Leaf & Robert Lawson order for
Wee Gillis
by Munro Leaf
Order:  USA  Can
New York Review, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

My first impression of this classic Caldecott Honor Book, was that Wee Gillis is beautifully bound. My second was that Munro Leaf's story reminded me of the Irish Rovers' song, The Orange and the Green. Just like the Irish singer, Wee Gillis is torn between opposing sides of his family heritage. Robert Lawson's amusing black and white sketches bring the Scottish surroundings (and the boy's rambunctious relatives) to life.

You see, his mother's relations are Lowlanders, who raise long-haired cows in the valleys. But his father's are Highlanders, who stalk stags up in the hills. Each group scoffs at the other's lifestyle. Wee Gillis alternates year by year with each side of his family, but what will he ultimately choose to be, a Lowlander or a Highlander? Each set of relatives tries to persuade him that their road is the right one for him. Trying to please them, he develops strong lungs - to call home the cows, and to hold his breath so as not to disturb the stags.

The day comes that Uncle Angus and Uncle Andrew demand his decision - when they get to the point of 'jumping and shouting' in frustration, a very large man shows up 'carrying something brown and big'. What he does next opens up a new life direction for Wee Gillis, in this simple and delightful coming of age story about family pressure, life choices, and the individual's freedom to make them.

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