Thursday, April 03, 2008


I read this in a recent Shelf-Awareness newsletter. It brought back to mind Ian Falconer's Olivia books. I really like them. If you haven't read them, look them up one day when you feel like talking to a pig-on-paper. The character is great, the drawings are wonderful, and the stories ... well, some days it really beats watching the news.

"After they read a book about opera star Maria Callas, Olivia's mother tells her, "You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway."
Olivia replies, "I love you anyway too."

Bloom!: by The First Book My Daughter 'Reads' to Me, from Jenn Risko

Maria Van Lieshout

A few months ago, my daughter, Lily, looked straight at me and said, "I can't. My heart is broken." It was wrecking. Being the savvy four year old that she is, the impact on me was not lost on her. This led her to devise new ways of using that suddenly popular phrase, including, "My heart is broken because you won't give me that pink frosted cookie." Or "My heart is broken because for my birthday you're not giving me five yellow Labrador puppies dressed up as princesses."

Around this time, the good folks at Feiwel and Friends (a Macmillan imprint) sent me a comp of Bloom!: A Little Book About Finding Love by Maria van Lieshout ($12.95, 9780312369132/0312369131), published just in time for this past Valentine's Day.

A little pig, Bloom, ignores the pleas from her pig friend to join him in the "delicious" mud puddle because she is so taken with a butterfly, or as Bloom calls it, "A flying dancing flower." She longs for it to take her away so she can "dance in the sky" with it. But after a longing gaze, the butterfly twirls away until it's just a "dancing dot in the sky." The next page is perfect: Bloom yells "Flying Flower!" and a very Charlie Brown-ish scribble of ultimate dissatisfaction appears above her red-faced head.

Back around comes the boy piggy, asking her again to join him in the puddle. To which, Bloom sobs, "I can't. My heart is broken." Then, "I will never love again."

As Bloom sobs, the boy piggy goes and finds her a beautiful flower and gives it to Bloom. Blushing, she asks, "For me?" Then we find them both in the "delicious" puddle, gazing at each other. (Lily at this point points to each of their eyes and makes the sound of their eyelashes in love, "Plink, plink.") All is well in the land of mud and fleurs and piggies' hearts.

Bloom! is a simple, beautiful story that has shown my daughter that, yes, even if your heart gets broken, you can still love again. The best part of it for me is this: It's the first story my child has ever "read" to me. I don't think she can truly read yet, but this lovely book has a home in her head. And she nails it, word for word, every time. Which is both a little heartbreaking and totally great at the same time.--Jenn Risko

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