Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
The Friend

The Friend

Fall 2004 Picture Books
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Author: Sarah Stewart
Illustrator: David Small
ISBN: 0-374-32463-8
Hardcover Price: $16.00
Caldecott Medalist David Small has once again provided elegant - often virtuoso - watercolor illustrations for a nostalgic text by his wife, Sarah Stewart. Almost certainly autobiographical, this slight tale in verse (not always felicitous) chronicles seven days in the life of a poor little rich girl, seven- or eight-year-old Annabelle ernadette Clementine Dodd.

With a mother "too busy to play" and a father "too often away," Belle fortunately has a perfect companion: a patient and loving black housekeeper, Beatrice Smith. Actually Bea is more of a castle keeper, since the Dodds occupy an elegant seaside villa. This setting provides artist David Small with ample opportunities to display his gifts both as a landscaper painter and a creator of lavish interiors.

It is questionable, however, whether young listeners will be captivated by his sophisticated full-page and often double-page tours de force. Nor will the author's enumeration of conventional weekly chores (i.e. washing and ironing, house cleaning and shopping, baking and scrubbing) be likely to entrance a picture book audience. Though its dramatic closing message that a child's sense of independence can go too far is sure to be remembered by young listeners, this beautiful book is perhaps best appreciated by adult viewers.

Selma G. Lanes   ©2004 Parents' Choice

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