Wednesday, December 01, 2010



“Where’s Keeko?” she asked.
“Ida!” scolded Katya. “That’s for babies.” She looked around, then whispered, “I still keep her in my pocket sometimes.”
With a laugh, Katya ran off. Ida chased after her.
Dotty tried to catch up, but the snow made it hard.
When Ida goes to school, she brings her imaginary friend Dotty with her, and it turns out that the classroom is populated with plenty of such companions. But as time passes, these partnerships dissipate, and Ida is stigmatized. All the same, she is not yet willing to say goodbye, Dotty being so very real to her in spite of what other people see. Only after a very poignant talk with her empathetic teacher is Ida able to loosen the leash on her pet, her own pedagogue proving that you don’t need to let go of the best parts of your imagination in order to carry on into the world of grown-ups. 

Sometimes there comes a book that undermines any hope I could have of descriptive prowess and just sends me reeling into a repeating chorus of PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT! Oh my shelves, this is why you were built, let me put this on you and take it off again and again to see if it STILL makes me cry with each new reading, why YES IT DOES!  Pardon my lack of decorum but my goodness, teachers certainly read a lot of books and it absolutely rattles the marrow to find one that “gets it” so 110%, one written with such a sense of surprise and real love, and one that so freshly suggests growing up is not necessarily about letting go, but about holding on with grace; a great message both for little people and the big people who share with them. Loose, lively, largely ink illustrations are very colorful and expressive, and manage the tricky realistic and the otherworldly dichotomy here. Do you still have what you imagine in your pocket, or on a long blue leash? Not since Margery Williams’ THE VELVETEEN RABBIT The Velveteen Rabbithas a book said something been spoken so truly about the happy and sad of the nature of things being “real.” If there is a teacher or a child you like at all, please share this book with them, along with a very real hug. (6 and up)

Also of interest:
In English, of Course
The members of Josephine's classroom all seem to come from somewhere else, and are called upon in turn to talk about where their families are from. But when it's Josephine's turn, she is not sure she has enough English under her belt to explain that her parents are architectural engineers from Napoli, Italy. Her limited language leads her into uncharted farm territory, where with the help of her teacher she is able to share an extravagant reminiscence about a cow, told with a lot of body language. This hilarious and honest book explores both the insides and the outsides of an extremely intelligent child who is just gathering the tools she needs to make herself understood. The splashy collage illustrations appropriately reflect the wild amounts of information that are being sorted through, along with the style and spirit of the story's heroine. ESL students and teachers will cheer here, but any child will empathize with Josephine's earnest attempt to share the best of herself with her class. "Sometimes native-speaking people underestimate the talents, dignity and wit of newcomers to a country," the author muses in her postscript. All of these attributes come through loud and clear in one of the more endearing characters and accurate classroom narratives to appear in children's literature (6 and up)

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Callie Feyen said...

I agree with you completely in regards to Dotty. I read this book to my four year old for the first time the morning she started preschool. I get tears in my eyes every time I read it.

Oh, and while I'm here, I think Sahara Special is an absolute masterpiece as well! I just reviewed it for a magazine and it was a pleasure to read again.

Audrey said...

Just another FOD (Fan of Dotty) chiming in with cheers...


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