Cover of Mel and Mo’s Marvelous Balancing Act

Mel and Mo’s Marvelous Balancing Act

By Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer. Annick Press, 2019. 32 pages, $21.95.
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Jessica Colafranceschi

Mel and Mo are a set of twins who loved each other and grew up together looking the same. However, they are not the same at all. One likes the rain and waking up early; the other likes the sun and sleeping in late. As they grow up, they grow apart because their tastes and interests diverge. Mel takes over the family umbrella store and Mo joins the circus to perform on the high wire. One day, umbrellas fall out of fashion and rollerblading in raincoats becomes all the rage. Mel cannot sell a single umbrella and people lose interest in the circus in favour of rollerblading. Mel and Mo come together at the end of the story to make umbrellas for the circus’s amazing new balancing act, demonstrating that people with very different interests and lifestyles can complement each other and work well together.

This is a great read aloud for classrooms experiencing conflicts around different perspectives. Amazingly, this book only uses the pronoun “they” to refer to both Mel and Mo, and the illustrations are androgynous enough that Mel and Mo can represent any gender.

This book is simply written and good for Kindergarten to Grade 2 early readers to practice their skills. In the language curriculum, this book lends itself well to the specific expectation 1.4 in Oral Language. Students can listen to this book as a read aloud and demonstrate their understanding through a retelling activity. Expectation 1.6 can be touched upon as well by asking students to make a personal connection with the story. Teachers can use this book as a jumping-off point to discuss different kinds of people and how to work through conflicting ideas.

Mel and Mo’s Marvelous Balancing Act is the perfect story to begin discussing the overall expectation A1 in Grade One Social Studies. Students in Grade 1 learn about people in the community and how their roles relate to who they are and how changes in circumstance affect people in various ways. In this story, two creative types who make umbrellas and perform for crowds had to adjust their work after a change in their community.

Despite their differences, Mel and Mo end up repairing their relationship and working together to overcome an obstacle. The story demonstrates creativity and perseverance and promotes an understanding that people who seem vastly different can still work well together. It is a great book for beginners and there are many curriculum connections for educators.

Jessica Colafranceschi is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.