November 23, 2016
(++++) FEELING FRIENDSHIP
The Most Perfect Snowman. By Chris Britt. Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. $17.99.
Libby and Pearl: The Best of Friends. By Lindsey Bonnice. Harper. $14.99.
Winter warmth pervades both these books, in which friendship is a wonderful counterbalance for feeling left out and unappreciated. Chris Britt’s The Most Perfect Snowman is about a very plain-looking snowman named Drift who is mocked by other, better-dressed snowpeople. Drift has only two skinny arms made from sticks and a quickly thrown-together coal face – no hat, scarf or mittens, and worst of all from his perspective, no carrot nose. Because of his plain appearance, Drift is left out of the “snowy fashion parades,” snowball fights and “snowman dances that lasted all night.” But then, one morning, three children happen to discover Drift, and they decide to dress him up: one gives him a hat, one a scarf, and one some mittens. And then, best of all, a little girl looks in her pocket and finds “the most pointy orange carrot nose that Drift had ever seen!” This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship: the kids declare Drift to be perfect, and he plays all afternoon with his newfound friends and “had never been so happy.” But – well, after the children go home, leaving Drift nicely dressed-up, a blizzard blows Drift’s new hat and mittens off, and he cannot find them anywhere. And then, as the snow falls hard and the wind howls, Drift hears a small voice calling for help. It is a tiny bunny, “frightened and shivery cold.” And Drift knows the right thing to do: there is no shelter anywhere, so Drift takes off his scarf and wraps the bunny in it for protection. And then he hears the tiny bunny’s tummy rumbling, and with regret, but knowing what is he needs to do, he pulls off the last of the children’s gifts – his wonderful carrot nose. And he gives it to the hungry bunny – and now, with this selfless gesture, as Britt says on the book’s very last page, Drift becomes “the most perfect snowman of all.” This is a season for giving and receiving gifts, and there are many books that try to show children that it is better to give than receive – but few are as heartwarming as this one.
Lindsey Bonnice’s photographic story of a little girl named Libby and a little pig named Pearl is simpler, more amusing, and provides less opportunity for introspection. But it is easy to read and a delight to look at. Libby is Bonnice’s daughter, and they live on a farm, which helps explain the presence of the piglet. The story is an indoor one, though, and not many kids will likely have a chance to play in their rooms with an adorable little pig. Libby is cast as the narrator of the book, explaining that although she and Pearl may seem to be unlikely friends – after all, they look nothing alike – they really have a lot in common, such as the fact that “both look amazing in pink” (Libby’s outfit and Pearl’s skin). There are scenes here that are both funny and charming. A misadventure in the kitchen, with Pearl first watching from the floor as Libby stirs something in a bowl, then being seen up on the counter eating from the same bowl, is especially amusing, and the following scene – when food is spilled everywhere and both friends end up eating cereal that is strewn all over – is as cute as it is inevitable. Libby and Pearl are seen bathing together, playing together, snuggling together, and having all sorts of everyday adventures that are made more than ordinary by Pearl’s presence (on the bed while Libby reads, on top of a toy piano while Libby plays it, in a wagon that Libby is filling with toys, and so on). Libby and Pearl: The Best of Friends is a visual book above all, and a joyful one: Libby’s varied expressions as Pearl turns up here, there and everywhere are a delight. Clearly friends and friendships come in all sizes, styles and types, with love and acceptance at the heart of all of them – a wonderful thought not only for this season but also for the entirety of the year.