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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hopper and Wilson, by Maria Van Lieshout. Philomel, Penguin. 2011.$19.50 ages 4 and up

"And off they sailed.
They waved until their
cactus had disappeared behind
the edge of the sea.
They bobbed on the waves
and dreamed about what they
would find at the end of the world."

They are not your typical friends...a blue stuffed elephant and a equally stuffed yellow mouse. Their boat is not typical for an arduous sea journey to the end of the world. Their friendship and trust in one another is charming and enticing. Their shared adventure cements that friendship and offers up a lovely tale for young readers.

The story was inspired by the author's father and brother, whose own ocean adventure was about loss and return. Once home safe, their appreciation had grown exponentially. It seems the perfect beginning for this quiet bedtime story of leaving home in search of what is thought to be a better place:

"What," Hopper asked his little friend Wilson, "do you think it's like at the end of the world?"
"Not sure, Hopper," Wilson answered,
"but I bet there's lots of lemonade!
I love lemonade."

Hopper wants a 'staircase to the moon' and a chance to reach out and touch that brilliant orb. Off they go! They trek on, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the water, the beauty of the night sky and being together. When a gale blows up, the boat is tossed from pillar to post and ends up with only one passenger. Hopper is lost and Wilson is desperate to find him. His queries are met with unsatisfactory responses and he becomes more and more alarmed. The bird, that wise and observant children have been watching all along, provides needed guidance to end their voyage. What a surprise for all!

The watercolor art is as dreamy and gentle as this lovely story, except for the green, choppy seas and the howling winds of the storm. There is much to see, and admire about the artist's use of white space, perspective and expression. Hopper and Wilson are tiny in the wide world; they are also comfy together and delighted in one another through the good times and the bad.

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