Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: A BALL FOR DAISY by Chris Raschka

Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. NY: Schwartz and Wade (Random House), 2011. ISBN 0-375-85861-1. $16.99.

I’ve been an admirer of Chris Raschka’s work for years (see other reviews here). My favorite remains Arlene Sardine. Raschka is a Caldecott Medalist, and I think he’s a front-runner again with A Ball for Daisy.

A Ball for Daisy is wordless. You will thoroughly enjoy the artistically-rendered story of the delightful Daisy’s love for her big red ball. Whether she’s chasing it, rolling it on her paws, wagging her tail simply at the sight of it, cuddling with it on the sofa, or happily off with her helpful mistress to the park to play with it, Daisy is cheerful; her joy makes the reader smile.

But this day at the park—not so good. An interloper in the form of a little brown poodle snatches the ball before Daisy can get to it, carries it smugly a few feet, and then, unintentionally, bites it too hard (how does the reader know it’s an unintentional act? The illustration shows us; the poodle is as surprised as anyone when the ball pops). Daisy is as deflated as the ball. Raschka’s palette introduces a dab of purple to the former happy reds, yellows, and soft grey-browns of Daisy’s world. With empathetic humor, the following pages depict Daisy’s attempt to resurrect her toy and her mistress’ attempts to get her through her loss.

But—at the park a few days later the brown dog and his mistress reappear to give Daisy a present: a brand new ball, this one blue. Everyone’s happy? You bet.

With just his brush and a few strokes, Raschka conveys emotionally-resonant scenes, using not only color but outline and face/body expressiveness. To me, thus, this is an ideal picturebook, not only for its artistry but for much that is depicted through the art, such as the thoughtful but also fair replacement of the punctured ball by the poodle’s owner. Without Raschaka’s use of a single word, the gamut displayed of Daisy’s feelings speaks to readers, helping develop their “mirror neurons,” crucial to learning compassion.

Could there be more books about Daisy forthcoming? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Alida Allison

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