Amanda Adams Loved Herbie Hickle

by Patti Farmer, Daniel Sylvestre,
32 pages,
ISBN: 0590124447

I Miss Franklin P. Shuckles

by Ulana Snihura, Leanne Franson,
32 pages,
ISBN: 1550375172

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Children`s Books
by Judi McCallum

Having loving feelings or a "crush" on someone is nearly universal among young children, so it is not unusual that two new titles dealing with the phenomenon appeared this past spring.

What is of note, however, is that the authors of both these books have dealt with it in a way that is neither sentimental nor patronizing, but is true to the reality of children's experience, although each in a very different way.

Amanda Adams Loves Herbie Hickle, by Patti Farmer, takes an upbeat, fun look at the trials and tribulations of young love. Amanda Adams loves Herbie Hickle, but he doesn't know she's alive: "everyone in the whole world knew it. Except Herbie Hickle." Her instincts tell her that she should be honest with him about her feelings, but her female friends have different advice. They suspect that honesty would have dire consequences, but their suggestions of ways to get Herbie's attention have their own dire but amusing outcomes. Each gift Amanda leaves on his desk is a minor disaster: the candy knocks one of his teeth out, her math answers are all wrong, and the flowers cause an allergic reaction. The last straw comes when she leaves a big red heart which Herbie tries to swallow to hide it from the teacher. He chokes on the note, but is rescued by Amanda when she thumps him on the back. Herbie eventually realizes how she feels when she takes the blame for the note episode and confesses to the events of the past few days. Even though she gets a week's detention, Herbie is waiting to walk her home every night.

Farmer does a masterful job of creating an action-packed tale out of a love story, and the repetitive structure of the story adds to its appeal. Farmer even slips in a message ("I should have just told you how I feel") without letting the plot miss a beat. The simplicity of the words and sentence structure will make this a book that early readers will want to tackle themselves, and also contributes to the fast-paced directness of the story.

The kinetic energy of Daniel Sylvestre's illustrations makes them practically leap off every page. Amanda, Herbie, and their classmates have a wonderful urgency and intensity about them as they gaze at us and each other with round, wide, white eyes with tiny pupils. Amanda's funky friends are as charming as they are misguided.

Ulana Snihura's I Miss Franklin P. Shuckles looks somewhat more gently at early love feelings, as a form of friendship rather than romance.

Franklin is a bit of a nerd. He has skinny legs and glasses and likes to tell stories. Molly agrees to play with Franklin in the summer because there was "no one else around," but when school starts, her friends laugh at him, and she decides the friendship has to end. As in Amanda Adams Loves Herbie Hickle, Molly tries all kinds of indirect means-in this case, to get rid of Franklin, but it is only with her note telling him that she doesn't like him that the message gets through. An age-old conundrum plays itself out: now that he's gone Molly misses him. Her strategies now turn to getting him back. Again, it is only with a note that Amanda gets results, and the friends swear lifelong allegiance.

Like Farmer, Snihura uses a simple and repetitive sentence structure, including a chorus-like phrase "So I did. But he didn't," to appeal to young readers and listeners. And as with Farmer there is a message-several, in fact-but they are conveyed with a light and tender touch.

Leanne Franson's watercolour illustrations echo the softness of Snihura's approach. Like all good illustrations, they add another dimension to the story and do not merely picture the plot and characters. Franson gives Franklin a huge grey elephant as an imaginary companion, and his soul-mate Molly carries an elephant back-pack to match. Franson's depictions of facial expressions and body language are especially revealing. One illustration in particular struck me. As Franklin reads Molly's note saying, "Molly Pepper doesn't like you," not only is his expression downcast, but the depth of his pain and humiliation are made quite apparent in the glow of his pinkish-red ears.

Patti Farmer shows the confidence and mastery of a veteran writer with her latest book, and the pairing of her text with Daniel Sylvestre's illustrations is a real coup. Ulana Snihura as a first-time author has made a promising debut with I Miss Franklin P. Shuckles, and her background in special education has served her well in her faithful rendering of the complexity of feelings that accompany childhood love and friendship.

Judi McCallum is the librarian at the Canadian Children's Book Centre.


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