Friday, December 10, 2010

31. What a Pair! Two Books of Friendship.

Up and Down, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, Philomel, $16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages. A boy and a penguin return from the South Pole the best of friends and for a time do everything together until one day the penguin decides he has to do something by himself: fly. Though everyone knows penguins can't fly, the penguin does his best to make it happen. He even climbs onto a chair on top of the boy's dresser and plunges off. (Luckily the boy is waiting below with a pillow.) But nothing seems to work. The boy even offers to take the penguin for a ride in his plane, but the penguin is determined to do this alone. Still, the boy wants to help and together they head to the zoo for answers. But soon after arriving the penguin sees a want ad for a living cannonball and in his excitement, rushes off to apply without telling the boy where he's headed.

The boy searches the zoo, even tries to sort out his friend from penguins in an enclosure, but is unable to find him. That night, the boy stands in the moonlight of his bedroom window, worrying about his friend. The penguin, as it turns out, has found the traveling show he was looking for and is immediately hired, but when night comes, he too is out of sorts. He wonders where the boy is and how to get home, and realizes he might not be so big on flying after all. The next day, the boy goes everywhere he imagined the penguin could be, when a poster at the airport catches his eye. Will the boy get to the penguin in time to catch him zooming out of the cannon? Beguilingly mellow, beautifully tender and spare, Jeffers's story leaves you feeling that all is good in the world. If you don't already know about the boy and penguin from Jeffers's wondrous 2006 picture book Lost and Found, you're in for a delight.

Chick 'n' Pug, written and illustrated by Jennifer Satler, Bloomsbury, $14.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages. Chick marches out of his coop in search of adventure and runs into a dog he assumes is his storybook hero, Wonder Pug. The only problem is, the dog, who is called Pug, acts nothing like Super Pug, though Chick (who sees what he wants to see) is smitten. When they first meet, Pug is laying on his side, with two paws dangling in the air. He's snoozing and in no time, Chick is swooning. Though Chick tries to be patient, he's anxious to meet his hero, and after a valiant effort of twiddling his paws, Chick grabs a bull horn and yells, "Hi," in Pug's sleeping face. Though it doesn't startle Pug, it's enough to get an eyelid open and as Pug stretches his paws and scratches his jowl with his hind leg, Chick proclaims his adoration. "I think you are magnificent," he declares, looking skyward, with one wing grandly swept across his chest. "I am going to be a Wonder Pug when I grow up." Immediately afterward, Pug hunkers back down and resumes his nap. Of course, Chick can explain all of this: Pug is saving his energy for a heroic deed. But what's this? Pug is miraculously starting to stir and what's that? A yawn? Chick is now all atwitter about what will happen next and flits about Pug, urging him to attack the toys around him or maybe an empty can -- after all, you never know when one might turn on you. But it isn't until Pug's high-heeled owner clicks over and slips a French striped shirt over Pug that Chick's hero shows what he's made of. But will Pug be as ferocious when it comes to Mr. Snuggles the cat? And could a sidekick come to his aid?  In the spirit of such charming twosomes as Toot & Puddles and Pete & Pickles comes another unlikely, yet irresistible friendship to melt your heart.

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