Oh, my! I just finished reading the just-published One Cool Friend by Maine’s own Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist David Small. This wonderfully silly tale of a very proper young boy named Elliot and his surreptitious acquisition of a pet penguin is a perfect blend of text and illustrations. Toni Buzzeo’s spare text doesn’t waste a word. She relies on readers’ shared experiences (“Elliot emptied the school notices from his backpack”) and her ability to call forth their own “what-if?” imaginings. David Small’s illustrations are delightful pen and ink with dashes of color that convey action and move the eye around the pages to the rich details. To me the illustrations have a gentle graphic novel feeling, especially in the treatment of the tongue-in-cheek dialogue.
One Cool Friend is a book about kids and unusual pets in the tradition of Steven Kellogg’s Can I Keep Him? Elliot’s creative attempts to keep his pet happy and fed, while keeping “Magellan” secret from his very studious, pre-occupied father culminates in a great surprise ending. I won’t give it away -- I’ll just say pay careful attention to the clues that Small’s background details give you.
From my librarian perspective, I’ll also say hooray for Elliot’s trip to the library for research on his penguin, and thanks, because this is a book that could lead some curious kids to read more - haul out those copies of Mr. Popper’s Penguins and books about penguins, Galapagos turtles, Captain Cook and Magellan.
Enjoy! (and thank you Toni for yet another wonderful read to share with my nieces.)
Recommended by Pam Goucher, Librarian, Maine, USA
Author’s Note: I'm so thrilled to announce the publication of my fifteenth picture book today! ONE COOL FRIEND (Dial, 2012) is the story of Elliot, a very proper young man, who, through a series of misunderstandings (or are they?), assumes that he has his father's permission to remove a penguin from the pool at the aquarium and take him home to live. With spare text and absolutely BRILLIANT graphic illustrations by Caldecott-award-winning illustrator David Small (how lucky am I?!), the book is an eye-winking tale of mistaken (or are they?) communications and visual hilarity. It's gotten early rave reviews with a star in PW. I hope you'll have a look.
More info on my website, where you'll find a Reader's Theater script already up and ready to download. http://www.tonibuzzeo.com/booksonecoolfriend.html
Curriculum Guide also available: