This is a funny, kooky book about Sylvie and True, a rabbit and a snake who live together in a small apartment in a big city, and are best friends despite their mismatched personalities. These are cute stories from one of my favorite children's authors -- McPhail's artwork, and his kooky sense of storytelling are always a delight. This one was quite popular in our house, and might be a big hit with your toddler-age children as well. (ReadThatAgain book reviews)
"Sylvie & True" features two friends who are roommates, a rabbit named Sylvie and a snake named True. The two share a room in a big city apartment and get along well with each other, even if they don't always like the same things. For example, Rabbit gets the bedroom all to herself because True is water snake and prefers to fill up the bathtub and sleep in it.
The stories are presented in a series of four vignettes. The first one, "Sylvie & True at Home" gives a brief outline of the two's home life, including a look at one of their neighbors. In the second, "True Tries to Cook," True helps to return Sylvie's past kindness when it comes to cooking. In "Sylvie & True's Bowling Night," the two find that just spending time together can be fun. And finally, "Bedtime" shows their night activities.
It's an interesting format, and not one you see in a lot of picture books. Sylvie & True are both endearing characters. Though they may be very different, they share a lot together. This book features enjoyable, soft illustrations and text that should be easy to read for developing readers, or is great for read-aloud.
David McPhail's "Sylvie and True" (2007) is a familiar story of friendship between two dissimilar animals, but McPhail's soft watercolor and pen/ink illustrations and humor set it above the rest.
McPhail gives us a sort of good animal/mischievous animal duo: Sylvie, a rabbit, is competent and fairly ordinary without being straight-laced, and is always a good friend. True, a giant water snake, is, well... to put it kindly, not as competent, and she has a mischievous streak as long as her tail. She delights in her rain forest ways (e.g., sleeping in a bathtub "with just her nose and tail sticking out of the water"), and particularly loves to take advantage of her huge length and two prominent front teeth. In story one (there are four interlinked mini-chapters), she tries to scare Mr. Gomez; he pretends that he's afraid. The entire book is full of good-natured fun, and McPhail excels at both goofy fun and dry wit:
"'Oh True,' he [Mr. Gomez] would say, 'you frightened me so!'
'That's because I am a frightful, wild beast,' said True.
'You certainly are,' said Mr. Gomez, but he couldn't keep from laughing." He fondly rubs the smiling True's neck.
In the second story, True decides to switch roles and make dinner for Sylvie. However, she forgets that she's left dinner cooking on the stove! Smoke fills the kitchen and pours into the next room where True is watching television.
Under a picture of a smoke filled room, McPhail writes, "After a while, the picture was hard to see...She [True] decided that something must be wrong with the TV." Sylvie returns: "Something's burning and the smoke detector is going off,' Sylvie shouted. Then True remembred. 'I think supper is burning,' she said." It's subtle, but the accompanying pictures and your expressive voice will elicit laughter.
The two other stories are "Sylvie and True's Bowling Night" (wherein True uses her length to MAYBE cheat a little at bowling), and the short but sweet, "Bedtime." After Sylvie reads to True, the two friends decide to go to sleep--Sylvie in her bed and True in her tub. They're both glad, each says, that they're friends.
Sylvie and True benefits from McPhails soft, vignetted drawings, and his unfailing sense of humor. While he presents the two animal friends as peers, it's clear that Sylvie is the adult figure. At first I thought True was somewhat on the "un-cute" side, but her appearance grew on me. (That's how it is with those giant water snakes.) Kids will enjoy uncluttered pictures, the small story format, and the unusual hijinks of True.