“…there is always more to discover.”
The Story of Diva and Flea (October 2015, Disney-Hyperion) was virtually guaranteed to be a hit. Author Mo Willems is considered kid lit royalty for his NY Times bestselling Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant & Piggie series. Illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi is known for his work in The Spiderwick Chronicles, the Wondla series, and his Caldecott Honor-winning illustrations for The Spider and the Fly. But in case anyone was having doubts, I’m here to tell you why this book is one of my favorites of 2015.
Diva and Flea follows the forming of an unlikely friendship in Paris, France. Diva is the pampered pooch of a gardienne living in a beautiful Parisian apartment building, her perfectly trimmed white fur ever-accompanied by a big pink bow and penchant for running at the slightest sense of danger. Flea is a self-proclaimed flaneur, a plucky stray cat who wanders the streets at will, trusting no one but himself.
Though the two don’t initially jive, each begin to see that there is much to learn from one another and ultimately learn that it’s easier to face your fears when you’re together.
This book stands apart for many reasons, not the least of which is its gorgeous illustration. DiTerlizzi captures the magic of Paris in his sweeping lines and delicate attention to detail, showing our four-footed characters next to such iconic sights as the Paris Metro entrance at Abbesses and the Eiffel Tower. DiTerlizzi also has a bit of fun with his artwork, working in subtle jokes and references to past works. I personally loved one page that showed many pairs of human feet walking the streets of Paris–one of which is wearing a Band-Aid to protect the back of her heel from blistering.
Also of note is the fact that Diva and Flea provides a refreshingly well-written story for a genre/age-group that is often neglected. This book is an early reader, which is to say a beginner chapter book with large font, short chapters, and illustrations throughout. Whereas parents often have to rely on overly simplistic and banal stories for this age, Diva and Flea is exceptionally well-written and thoughtful.
Young American readers will benefit from the book’s setting, learning bits and pieces about Paris and broadening their worldview in the process. And the take-away messages about friendship, trust, and courage are ones that we could all benefit to hear.