Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tea Party Rules

Booklist starred (October 15, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 4))

Preschool-Grade 3. Ooh, how frustrating. A young bear cub stumbles upon a little girl’s tea party and really, really just wants a cookie, but tea party rules get in the way. The cub, who, unbeknownst to the girl, has knocked her stuffed bear off a chair and taken his identity, gets carted away as soon as the girl peers closely at him. “You’re too grubby,” she says. Cub does not want a bath. However, he is groomed and then put in a dress and bonnet (“Tea Party Rule: you must be neat”). Soon Cub is seated at the table, and it’s finally cookie time, but the rule to “eat daintily” is out the window. (He has his dignity, after all.) The tables are turned, perfectly so, when the little girl changes the game, and therefore the rules. Dyckman (Boy and Bot, 2012) and Campbell (Flora and Ulysses, 2013) are a winning pair, using their comedic chops to pace the story beautifully. Seeing Cub masquerading as stuffed, with feet sticking stiffly out and eyeballs wide, is laugh-out-loud funny. Campbell’s soft sepia-marker-and-colored-pencil illustrations appear on creamy backgrounds, alternating humorous spots and detailed full-page spreads; the depictions of an unhappy bear ensure little ones are in on the joke. This battle of wills between two charmers hits just the right note.

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