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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Mountain of Friends, written and illustrated by Kerstin Schoene, with translation by Natalie Hyde. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013. $18.95 ages 2 and up

"I'm a bird
but I can't fly!
No matter how
hard I try,
I can't get off
the ground."

Poor little penguin! He has only one wish, and he expresses it woefully to anyone who is willing to listen. When we first meet him, he's got a tight grip on a cloud. When next we see him, sitting atop an ice cube (head down and wistful), he is getting needed support
from worried friends.

That's when he tells them that all he wants is to soar above the clouds. As determined as he is to have that happen, and as ingenious as his many attempts, he remains securely on land. Poor penguin, I say again. So, Hippo, Giraffe and Elephant enlist the reader's help in literally turning this story on its ear.  They ask that we turn the book. Now, we have a vertical view of the action.

They are a never-give-up group! Taking him to the top of a hill doesn't get him high enough; nor does piling stones on the hill work. They are not yet ready to throw in the towel. Young readers will reap the real benefits of the length that friends will go to ensure happiness for a gloomy friend. As page after page is turned, the chances for soaring greatly improve...finally, mission accomplished! It's amazing what a little teamwork can do.

Now, let's read it AGAIN!

The second time around we can feast our eyes on the sweetly detailed artwork that German artist Kerstin Schoene has created for this winsome story of friendship. The expressions are entertaining, the changing perspectives add attention-grabbing concentration and the reward for having great friends assures heady pleasure. It's a great message. Oh, and don't forget to take a careful at the endpapers!

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