Friday, April 13, 2012

ONE COOL FRIEND by Toni Buzzeo

Buzzeo, Toni. One Cool Friend. Illus. David Small. NY: Dial Books, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-80373-413-5. $16.99.

If One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo (Penelope Popper, Book Doctor) and David Small (Imogene’s Antlers, So You Want to Be President?), is any indication of the quality of picture books that will be published in 2012, then we are in for quite a treat. This one is clever, silly, and surprising, and young readers will love this tale of unlikely friendships and hilarious misunderstandings.

Buzzeo writes that “Elliot was a very proper young man,” which all readers can see from his quiet disposition, elevated language, and a black & white wardrobe (complete with bow-tie) that would make Edgar Allen Poe proud. While visiting the aquarium with his father one day, unruffled Elliot becomes quite taken by the Magellanic Penguins, “In their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture, they reminded Elliot of himself.”

Elliot identifies with the little dapper dudes so much that he decides to take one home with him… only after first asking his father for permission, of course.

Unfortunately, Elliot’s turtle-obsessed father, distracted by his latest copy of National Geographic Magazine, misunderstands Elliot’s request and believes that the boy would simply like to take home a plush penguin from the gift shop. Hilarity ensues, as the young boy turns his room into an Antarctic wonderland for his new friend, Magellan, and Elliot and his father continue to misinterpret one another. Readers will be laughing out loud when all comes to light at the end of the story.

David Small’s illustrations for One Cool Friend are absolutely charming. His celebrated mixed-media artwork is full of creative details, interesting snippets of newspapers & maps, and fabulous pops of color. He has also drawn speech and thought bubbles around Elliot & his father’s dialogue, as well as their inside thoughts, which adds a creative and slightly comic-strip feel to the text. Readers will find themselves looking back through each page, searching for the small details that hint at the book’s silly conclusion.

One Cool Friend is imaginative, hilarious, and an absolute joy to read.

Caitlin Kennedy

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