The Friendship Surprise (Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Friendship Surprise by Giorgio Volpe and Paolo Proietti, translated by Angus Yuen-Killick, a lovely sequel to the author-illustrator pair’s previous book, Before We Sleep.

Little Red the fox is so excited – his best friend Hazel the dormouse is soon to wake from her winter hibernation, and Little Red is going planning his customary surprise for when she does. He worries though, because while Hazel was hibernating, he made a new friend – Brock the badger – and has been spending lots of time with him. He wonders briefly if his surprise should be introducing the two, but he worries that Hazel will like Brock more than him, and he will lose both friends by bringing them together. He resolves to keep spending time with both friends separately, but this leads to some suspicious behavior that puzzles both besties. How will Little Red resolve his friendship conundrum?

Lovely. Picking up where the heartwarming yet bittersweet Before We Sleep left off, Little Red and Hazel’s new story explores another classic theme of childhood friendship: navigating the meshing of friend groups. Little Red’s specific anxiety – that his two wonderful friends will only want to be friends with each other, pushing him out – gives this theme a fresh and empathetic twist, and one that may especially speak to readers with poor self esteem. It’s wonderful that both Hazel and Brock treat Little Red’s fear with delicacy and sincerity, proving that they are loyal friends. Volpe’s text and Killick’s translation are gentle and endearing, and Proietti’s soft pencil-style illustrations fit the tone and spring season setting perfectly. The length was great for a elementary storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. Overall, a worthy sequel, and a delight all on its own. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Most Important Thing (Antonella Abbatiello)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Most Important Thing by Antonella Abbatiello, translated by Angus Yuen-Killick, a sweet and simple tale of celebrating differences.

One day, a group of animal friends are having a rather loud discussion over whose distinctive features are the “most important.” Rabbit insists that it’s long ears, while hedgehog is sure that it’s quills. Elephant extols the virtues of being big and having a trunk, while frog insists that everyone would find that being green is the way to be. With each new suggestion, the animals imagine themselves with such an adaptation: long necks like a giraffe, wings like a bird, or webbed feet like a duck. Finally, owl suggests that the answer to what the “most important thing” is perhaps more obvious than they realize…

A simple story with a classic message. This Italian import was first published in 1998, but has aged particularly well, likely due in part to its simplicity and genuine charm. Abbatiello’s illustrations are approachable and amusing, and the fold-out spreads of the animals imagining themselves as sharing the features of their friends are inventive and entertaining, especially for younger readers (JJ got a lot of laughs out of what a giraffe would look like with a trunk, or an alligator with beaver teeth). The text is uncomplicated and fun to read aloud, and Yuen-Killick did a great job with establishing meter in the rhyming refrain in this translation. The length is perfect for a storytime with young bookworms, and JJ loved it. An enjoyable title that imaginative animal lovers are sure to appreciate, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)