Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Determined Friend

Philip C. Stead is the author of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, a book that won a little award called the Caldecott...have you heard of it?  It also just happens to be one of my favorite picture books. Ever.  Stead has gone and done it again.  His earnest prose and simple old-manish characters (Can I say that? Yes, let's call them that. Old-manish: characters with old names, warm hearts and just the slightest hint of a paunch) have won me over again.  This time he also shows that he is a masterful illustrator in his own right (no small feat when compared to the sheer perfection of his wife's illustrations for Amos).  Stead's own art style is a gorgeously messy combination of pencil sketches and acrylic paint.
His story follows Vernon the toad (see, old-manish name) who, upon finding a bird who doesn't speak, "but is also a very good listener," decides that his new companion must be lost and in need of a friend to help him find his way home.  Full of whimsical details like a teacup-turned-boat, this journey will speak to adults as well as children.  The story could be used with preschoolers and kindergartners to spark discussion about what it means to be a good friend, but adults will likely appreciate it for its deeper message.  A true friend is like Vernon, patient, determined, and willing to help you find your way home, even if that journey requires venturing out "into the great unknown."

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