Priscilla the rat from Sharon Jennin's Priscilla and Rosy is back and young readers (and some not so young) will delight in her latest adventure. Priscilla is a rat who must dance, but her tiny house does not give her the space she needs to express herself. While searching for a new home with more space for pirouetting, she and her best pal Rosy stumble into Madame Genevieve's Dance Studio. There is a mirror! There is a barre! There is a huge room! It is a dancing rat's dream come true! Later that night, Priscilla slips back into the studio and ties on her pointe shoes, but, to her horror, she is interrupted by the night watchcat. The next day, over cafT au lait, Priscilla suggests to her friends that they might help her out by distracting the cat during her dance practice. When they politely decline, she decides that she must take matters into her own paws and stand up to the cat. He turns out to be a real pussycat and the two begin to dance together. As a grand finale, they perform the pas de deux from Swan Lake.
Priscilla has lost none of the insouciant charm that we came to love in Priscilla and Rosy. When Rosy wails that Priscilla cannot move away, she gives her standard response, "Oh, pooh!" And when Rosy tells her that she is a beautiful dancer, Priscilla says, "Yes I am." Once again, she exhibits a breathtaking self-centeredness when she asks her ratty friends to put their lives on the line for her dancing. Eventually her determination and courage lead her to a surprising and wonderful solution to her problem. Linda Hendry's saucy pictures brilliantly convey the action and the feelings of Priscilla and her friends. These rats have their own rat-sized possessions, but they are also part of the larger world around them. While dining at Tony's Trattoria, they enjoy a meatball and a strand of spaghetti along with the shoelace of the diner sitting at the table above them. There is great attention to detail¨pink ribbons flapping around skinny little rat legs, a mother cat and kittens hanging up mittens. Priscilla's house is so full of stuff that it is no wonder she has no room to dance. It is a seamless marriage of pictures and text and both author and artist have created memorable characters who inhabit a believable world.
How can you have your friends over to watch television when your mom is flying around on her trapeze? This is the dilemma confronting a young boy who is the son of a circus performer. Circus Play takes the reader into a most unusual home, and it isn't long before lions, elephants and a whole big top take over the living room. While the boy attempts to watch TV, his friends are more interested in dressing up in circus clothes and playing at being in the circus. Imaginations run wild and soon there is a bullfight, a safari and a rocket ship. Finally the TV is turned off, mom is doing a banana split up high and the boy is hoping his friends come back another day.
Anne Laurel Carter is best known for her fiction for middle and older readers. She brings the same sensitivity and awareness of a child's inner life to this delightful picture book for young children. The short text is breezy and playful, as are the gentle watercolour illustrations. The book plays with the delicate balance between pictures and text in interesting ways. On the first few pages, when the boy is trying to have a normal visit with his friends, we are told that mom is flying around but we cannot see her. After several pages, she appears as a shadow up high and then we actually see part of her swinging upside down. As the circus play takes over, more of mom appears. In the middle of the book there are three glorious double-page spreads of the ringmaster, the animals and the daring trapeze flyer in all her glory. The big top has truly taken over the whole house. As the animals begin to misbehave and a jungle intrudes on the circus, the text reappears, mom becomes a shadow again and everyone settles back down into the real world of the living room. Although it is reminiscent of the wild scenes in Where the Wild Things Are, the technique works perfectly here, providing a flight of fancy for the characters and the reader. It is a perfect small book for a small child that is sure to provoke some smiles in its grown-up readers as well.
Mary Anne Cree is the Junior School Librarian at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto and a partner in MaryContrary Associates