EveryBody's Different on EveryBody Street
Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Emma Fitzgerald
Sheree Fitch's playful words lead you into this beautiful children's book and invite you to celebrate our gifts, our weaknesses, our differences and our sameness. Fitch displays her wit and mastery of words in quick, rollicking rhymes that are complemented by Emma Fitzgerald's lively illustrations. EveryBody's Different on EveryBody Street was originally produced in 2001 as a fundraiser to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Festival of Trees in support of the Nova Scotia Hospital and to raise awareness for mental illness and addiction.
From the book
If ever you go travelling
On EveryBody Street
You'll see EveryBody's Different
Than EveryOne you meet
Some lope along giraffe-like
Some shuffle hippopotami
Some strut about like peacock's
Those of us who are full-fledged fans of Sheree Fitch’s amazing ability to bring life and joy to her incredible word choices will notice a remarkable shift to a serious tone in this offering. Although in the past, most of Fitch’s poetry has had the ring of authenticity and often spoke volumes about life’s lessons, this one has a unique purpose. Her author’s note at the book’s end explains her decision to take on this very special project that was written originally in 2001as a fundraiser in support of the Nova Scotia Hospital and to raise awareness of mental illness and addictions. Fitch’s journey and detailed objective make fascinating reading and go a long way in clarifying the underlying meaning to the words in Everybody’s Different on Everybody's Street.
Some of us hold bags of hope
like babies in our arms
Some hop over sidewalk cracks
In search of good luck charms
Fitch’s serious focus, however, doesn’t diminish her trademark playful, sometimes nonsensical, phrasing which quite often uses animal references. But because this is a serious topic, there is a poignancy to her words.
She is able to point out our weaknesses and quirks.
Some of us wear hats of worry
Seven stories high
But Fitch always does so with understanding, compassion and a deeper meaning. Full of rollicking rhymes and wit, Fitch’s poem encourages readers to be aware of our differences, our sameness, and the importance of accepting others by acknowledging we all have flaws and we are all vulnerable. It is important to celebrate whatever we have to offer.
Emma FitzGerald’s illustrations in a sketch-like medium try to highlight the different interests, passions and troubles of people.
Some live messy as tornadoes
Some are paper-clipping neat
Some grow juicy re tomatoes
Some don’t have enough to eat.
Visually reflecting and capturing Fitch’s words must be like trying to take hold of a genie in a bottle, a genie barely in one’s grasp. The effect is sometimes busy and dizzying. But as the first five line refrain of, “If you ever go travelling On Everybody Street…” is repeated on every second page, the illustrator, in amusing fashion, accompanies this catchy, lyrical phrase with pictures of a father reading, first to himself, then to a child, during different times of day or when the child is bathing, brushing his teeth or at bedtime. Somehow, the steadiness of this activity, during any day full of turmoil and even confusion, is reflected so well in pictures and provides a sense of calmness to a challenging and complex topic.
In an interview with CBC, Sheree explained that her intent for this piece 11 years ago was to spark a discussion on mental illness and to push for conversations that might lead to understanding. Whether it does or not, considering the age range recommended by the publisher, it is certainly timely in this day and age that even young children be made aware of the topic of mental health. Talking about this subject might help young people navigate difficult times of their own and others, with empathy and compassion, rather than judgment.
Reviewer: Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.