March 28, 2013
Peepsqueak Wants a Friend! By Leslie Ann Clark. Harper. $15.99.
Marley and the Great Easter Egg Hunt. By John Grogan. Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. Harper. $9.99.
Mia: The Easter Egg Chase. By Robin Farley. Pictures by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. HarperFestival. $4.99.
Easter Bunny on the Loose! By Wendy Wax. Illustrations by Dave Garbot. Harper. $7.99.
The coming of spring invariably brings, in books, the coming of springtime stories, and in particular Easter tales – mostly of the secular type. Pure springtime fun with the delightful chick Peepsqueak is to be found in Peepsqueak Wants a Friend! This is the second book of this character’s adventures after the eponymous first one. Leslie Ann Clark has a winner of adorableness here: wearing a red shirt with the initials “P.S.,” Peepsqueak is interminably optimistic and ever-determined to succeed at whatever modest goal he sets for himself. In Peepsqueak Wants a Friend! the goal is clear from the title: noticing that the other chicks are all “2 by 2,” but he is not, Peepsqueak decides to go into the woods and find a friend all his own. He keeps running into paired animals, including hedgehogs, birds and raccoons, and insists on continuing deeper into the forest – because he is following a set of VERY LARGE footprints that he is sure will lead him to a friend. Any possible scariness of the footprints is minimized by the narration, in which Clark repeatedly says that “Peepsqueak hopped, skipped, jumped, and skittered down the path,” with the four verbs in four different colors. Eventually coming to a cave where the footprints end, Peepsqueak calls loudly for the friend who, he is sure, is just inside – and sure enough, the huge creature in the cave is only too happy to be his friend, albeit only after some considerable startling of Peepsqueak’s fellow farm animals. A silly, pleasant springtime romp, Peepsqueak Wants a Friend! is a delight for ages 4-8.
The latest Marley adventure, for the same age range, is a particularly enjoyable one, thanks largely to Richard Cowdrey’s hyper-dynamic illustrations. All of Marley and the Great Easter Egg Hunt is fast – page after page has Marley in action and his family (and other people) in startled reaction, as the adorable but ever-misbehaving dog constantly zooms here and there after this and that. The main “this and that” things here are, of course, Easter eggs: the irrepressible Marley insists on helping Cassie in the town’s official hunt, and indeed manages to find egg after egg. But he is so far ahead of Cassie that by the time she catches up, someone else has found and taken every single egg that Marley first spotted. “Where’s that crazy dog going now?” asks Daddy at one point, and Cowdrey’s pictures certainly make Marley look, if not crazy, at least hyper-enthusiastic and constantly excited. The twist in John Grogan’s story involves one special Easter egg, which the mayor says is large but not easy to find. Readers will know that Marley will eventually be the one to find it and win the hunt, but how he finds it is the fun here. And it is very messy fun, as Marley discovers non-hardboiled eggs in a market and breaks them all over himself, then rushes into a bakery and gets covered with purple frosting, then runs through a large, egg-shaped piñata and emerges covered with confetti, which sticks to the frosting and egg. Marley is a mess, but of course he is an adorable one, looking like a decorated Easter egg himself as he continues to outrun his family and all the other townsfolk. But even Marley slows down eventually, and the way he very sloppily discovers the special Easter egg is pure Marley and pure fun.
Two (+++) series books, also for ages 4-8, offer Easter-themed entries as well, and if they are not quite as enjoyable as Marley’s latest story, they will be fun for kids who already like these specific characters and approaches. Mia: The Easter Egg Chase features the ballerina kitten in a much milder egg hunt than Marley’s. Mia gives some special help to little cousin Sophie, who cannot get to the eggs as quickly as the other cousins do. Mia’s niceness pays off for everyone, including Mia herself, with Robin Farley’s helpfulness message nicely set off by the illustrations by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. A bound-in page of stickers adds to the enjoyment here: most of them are Easter eggs, and the book’s final page shows Mia’s back yard, where readers can “hide” them. And hiding and finding things – in particular, a golden egg – is the whole point of Easter Bunny on the Loose! This is in the “Seek and Solve Mystery” series, books with big and crowded pages in Where’s Waldo? mode, with six “suspects” shown at the beginning and the Easter Bunny acting as detective, assembling clues. The idea is to find the Easter bunny on each page – amid many, many other bunnies and lots and lots of things going on – and piece together the clues that the Easter bunny finds, one by one. Wendy Wax’s text is simple and straightforward, but Dave Garbot’s super-busy illustrations contain surprises here and there, beyond the “find it” one – for example, the chocolate Easter rabbit that seems (from its expression) to be an actual bunny inadvertently covered in chocolate. Eventually the Easter bunny finds all the clues and discovers the culprit, who – as usual in these books – meant well and was not really a thief but just someone planning a surprise that went awry. Once the mystery is solved, though, there is little reason for kids to re-read the book, although the inside back cover’s “bonus search” does suggest looking for some additional items in the pictures. And kids who enjoy brightly colored and very elaborate art may also have fun returning to Easter Bunny on the Loose! For others, it will be a one-time-use seasonal treat.