For the Joy of Literacy!
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Younger siblings can be quite exasperating and Flora is letting out her frustration in the opening scene. Her younger brother, Crispin, has just spilled her paints again, and somehow she is the one getting blamed for the mess. Flora is sent outside and told to take Crispin with her. It just so happens that it is an especially windy day. Flora’s super-special heavy-duty red boots keep her grounded and she mocks the wind’s attempt at blowing her away. Then, still resenting having to be with her brother, she tempts the wind by directing its attention to Crispin: ” . . . you may notice that my little brother is wearing regular old purple boots.”
‘Be careful what you wish for’ is perhaps Flora’s realization, because as she sees her little brother being lifted up and blown away, she has a change of heart. Her empty red boots are pictured in the foreground with a whimsical sight of Flora soaring with the wind, arms outstretched toward her brother. The following is best described as a journey of the heart, as several encounters make her choose whether to keep her little brother or not. One thing after another claims to have a special use for him and asks: “Will you give me that little boy?” Each time, Flora decides that he is her brother and that she will take him home. However, the resounding question is: will the wind let her? Flora finally turns to the wind and asks whether they may go home. There has been a literal crescendo up to this pivotal moment when the wind questions where the right spot for Crispin is: “You do want to get rid of him, right?”
It is this moment that you as a reader will expect the author to capitalize upon. . . some grand realization that Flora indeed loves her brother and wants to keep him. Instead, her response is simply that her mother wouldn’t like it if she lost him. This moment is a little disappointing. HOWEVER, I overall truly enjoyed the creative portrayal of Flora gradually realizing her love for Crispin. Some may argue that the message requires too much reading between the lines. Personally, I believe good stories act out the message instead of preach the message. Obvious is not always the best. The story closes with a picture of Flora sharing cookies with her brother. She then scoots over to him and puts her arm around him. Pictures speak louder than words and I believe the message rings loud and clear. Great book!
One final note: these illustrations couldn’t be more perfect. Amazing job by Matt Phelan!
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