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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stella! A Treasury. Written and illustrated by Marie-Lousie Gay. Groundwood, 2012. $24.95 ages 3 and up

"Listen!" cried Sam. "Was that a wolf?' "Wolves don't croak, Sam. That was a tree frog." "Is a tree frog as big as a wolf?" asked Sam. "It's so tiny you can put it in your pocket." "There's no room in my pocket," said Sam. "It's full of cookies." "Tree frogs love cookies," said Stella."

The definition of treasury is: A collection of literary or artistic treasures. The definition of treasure is:  One considered especially precious or valuable.

That being said, STELLA! is a treasury of treasures. Oh, yes! I definitely think it is!

It's been a while since I shared these incredible stories. There was a time when I read one or all, every single day, and we were mesmerized by the relationship between Stella and her younger brother Sam. Stella, the older and certain-that-she-was-wiser sibling who was determined to school Sam in the ways of the world. Sam, the naive-yet-articulate-and-perceptive younger sibling who asked exasperating questions that his older sister could not always fathom, or answer. Oh, I love them both. Now, some of their stories have been anthologized, along with Stella's own story of being very, very small, into one amazing storybook!

We begin at the beginning with When Stella Was Very, Very Small (Groundwood, 2009) and learn much that we had not previously known about the girl wonder:

"Every night before going to bed, Stella listened
to the trees talking.
They told stories about holding up the sky with their
branches and tickling the bellies of the smallest clouds."

It is Stella's imagination that I love so much, and Marie-Louise Gay's carefully chosen language that brings her to such glorious life. Having not read these books often in the past few years, I found myself laughing out loud and delighting in reading them all over again. Stella never ceases to amaze me with her endless energy, her exuberant lease on life in all its various forms and her innate ability to find the best in every experience.

As I read through this treasure, I found myself remembering some of my favorite conversations of all time. Sam is a perfect foil for Stella's know-it-all personality and despite his obvious adoration for his big sister, he is not just going to sit back and follow her lead without checking out a few things first or expressing his disquiet. 

On his first visit to the sea, Sam is apprehensive. Stella, who has been there once before and thinks she knows its many wonders, does her best to convince him to let go of his concerns and ENJOY it!

"Is the water cold?" asked Sam. "Is it deep?
Are there any sea monsters?"
"The water is lovely," said Stella.
"And not a sea monster in sight.
Come on in, Sam!"
"Not right now, " said Sam."

He has many other questions to be answered before he is ready to take the plunge.

It's the same with the sky, the forest and his first snowstorm. He is never prepared just to take Stella's word for it. She has to do some formidable convincing. Each time she does what she needs to do, Sam is cajoled, and together they enjoy their shared experiences.

Satisfying, endearing and charming...every page, every piece of artwork and each encounter between siblings.

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