Angus MacAskill’s Desire to be Appreciated Inside
Lisa Doucet reviews Tom Ryan’s A Giant Man From a Small Town
A Giant Man From a Tiny Town: A Story of Angus MacAskill
Tom Ryan, illustrated by Christopher Hoyt
In the 1830s, a young boy and his family leave their beloved home in the Scottish Hebrides to start a new life in a faraway land. They sail upon the seemingly never-ending ocean until they spot land: Cape Breton Island, their new home.
Angus comes to love this new home, where he makes many friends and happily spends his days at school, working on his family’s farm and helping his neighbours. And he is called on for help often. Angus is extremely tall. He grows up to be 7 feet and 9 inches!
Angus comes to realize that there is a whole wide world waiting to be explored. Off he goes to find his fortune. He attracts much attention wherever he goes and sees many wonderful places, meets many equally wonderful people. Angus also discovers a very important truth during the course of his travels and adventures: there is truly no place like home.
Author Tom Ryan’s first picture book is a beautiful celebration of the joys of home and family as well as a charming introduction to the life of local legend, Angus MacAskill. With poetic prose, Ryan (who hails from Cape Breton) skillfully captures a sense of Angus’s idyllic childhood. Young readers may get only a vague sense of his adult wanderings, but the most important message comes across very clearly. Angus’s unfailing love for his Cape Breton home and his desire to be appreciated not for his height or strength but for who he is inside make this book one that readers of all ages will appreciate.
The delicately detailed watercolour illustrations bring every aspect of the story to vivid life on each page, capturing the vastness of the ocean on Angus’ initial journey, the lush beauty Cape Breton, as well as all the exquisite delights of the wider world once he embarks on his quest to explore. Together author and illustrator have created a lovely homage to an intriguing man and to the home he loved.