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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Story of Diva and Flea, as told and shown by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2015. $16.50 ages 6 and up

"Then, inside Flea's favorite store, he saw a woman drop a giant piece of salami smack onto the floor. Flea pounced and snatched the salami before the Man with the Broom could even chase him out (an event that was both unusual and delicious). And, if that weren't enough, that very same day Flea happened to wander past the courtyard at 11 avenue Le Play ... "

As I come to terms with the fact that I am soon to read the final book in the Elephant and Piggie books, I am also encouraged by the news that Mo Willems has much in store for his many present and future fans. To that end, I want to tell you about this early chapter book about friendship, a tale that is totally in keeping with what is at the very heart of his 25 books about Piggie and Gerald.

We meet Diva at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, in ' a grand old apartment building with a small gated courtyard in front'. She lives there along with many others, and is companion to the gardienne who cares for the building and its environs. Diva is a small dog, charged with patrolling the courtyard and welcoming or keeping visitors at bay. Flea, on the other hand, is a street cat happy with his role in life. Flea is a flaneur, a wanderer bent on seeing everything there is to see.

When Flea walks past 11 avenue Le Play during one of his wanderings in the city, he is surprised by Diva's reticence to truly protect her courtyard by yelping and running off. That intrigues Flea and encourages many subsequent visits. An unexpected gift from Flea to Diva, after inadvertently hurting her feelings, cements a growing friendship and leads to many adventures and discoveries for both. Plot twists are rampant and assure rapt attention to the action. A final 'wondrous thing' is just perfect!

Tony DiTerlizzi places readers on the streets of Paris with his gorgeous accompanying artwork. The design is lovely, adding charm and tremendous appeal. Bits of French language describe the trajectory the story takes, in a series of acts and intermissions.

The notes that both author and illustrator pen following the story add context and humor, when you might least expect it. Sure to be a favorite, I am adding it to my 'keepers' shelf!

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