Children’s Book Reviews: Week of 12/10/07

by Rachel Baker on December 17, 2007

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Bloom! A Little Book About Finding Love
Maria Van Lieshout. Feiwel and Friends, $12.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-312-36913-2

As light and sweet as cotton candy, this saga of a pig in love will win over kids and grownups alike. Van Lieshout’s loosely drawn pen and ink illustrations, mostly on stark white pages, wring Oscar-winning expressions from the slenderest curves and squiggles. The minimalist text begins before the title page, when Bloom’s faithful friend urges her to join him playing in a puddle. The insouciant pig declines, declaring, in type of varying size, that she feels like “dancing and singing… and stretching out under the flowers.” In a beguiling version of love at first sight, Bloom spies a butterfly, the only blue object seen in a book that features pink font, pink pigs and pink flowers. “A flying flower!” she gasps, and then bats her eyes at it. After fluttering nearby and wresting a profession of love from Bloom, the butterfly departs, leaving a heartbroken heroine. Van Lieshout’s deft use of line comes through in Bloom’s distressed dismay, a cross between toddler meltdown and Juliet, which is happily cut short by the attentions of Bloom’s faithful swine swain. This paper-over-board book’s stylish design and small square format designate it as a natural for Valentine’s Day. All ages. (Jan.)

Nikki and Deja
Karen English, illus. by Laura Freeman. Clarion, $15 (80p) ISBN 978-0-618-75238-6

In her first chapter book, English (Francie) perceptively explores the undercurrent of insecurity and rivalry that threaten two African-American girls’ friendship. When Antonia moves into the neighborhood and tries to boss two best friends around, Deja elects to start a drill club and pointedly not invite the new girl. But when Nikki messes up at drill club tryouts, she anticipates rejection and hooks up with Antonia, who proposes an exclusionary club of their own. The plot is secondary to the authentically rendered backdrops of sidewalk games, the third-grade classroom and Saturday morning TV-watching. Better still are the author’s careful tabs on the daily fluctuations in the girls’ emotional lives: “She hadn’t meant to say that…. And since she can’t put the words back into her mouth, she’s glad she’s in front of her house because then she gets to stomp up her stairs and slam the door behind her.” More probing than many chapter books, this title delivers the satisfaction of a full-length novel. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 6-10. (Dec.)

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