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The Story of Diva and Flea Hardcover – October 13, 2015
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From School Library Journal
About the Author
Tony DiTerlizzi (www.diterlizzi.com), a number-one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, created the middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles with Holly Black, which has sold millions of copies, been translated into more than 30 languages and made into a feature film. He won a Caldecott Honor for illustrating The Spider & The Fly, and in 2014 he teamed up with Lucasfilm to retell the original Star Wars trilogy in a picture book featuring artwork by Academy award-winning concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife, daughter and dog, Mimi.
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This is a bit of a departure for Mo in two ways. First, it is for a slightly older audience than his typical easy reader books. It’s almost 70 pages long and includes chapters and more words than normal. Secondly, instead of doing the illustrations himself, Mo asked his friend Tony DiTerlizzi to do them. Neither of these is a weakness in the slightest, just something worth noting.
The story centers around the unlikeliest of friends, a small dog named Diva and an ally cat named Flea. Diva lives in a small Paris apartment and stands guard in the courtyard every day. However, she is very timid and runs away at everything, including approaching feet. Flea, on the other hand, spends his days exploring the city of Paris and living by his wits.
One day, Flea walks outside the courtyard and sees Diva. While at first he delights in teasing her, soon he is spending his days telling Diva about all the things he’s experienced. As their friendship grows, they each impact the other in significant ways. How exactly will their lives change?
While there may be some changes from Mo’s normal books, there are some similarities. We get the power of friendship and how that can change you for the better. That’s a constant theme of his Elephant and Piggie books after all. Both Diva and Flea are good characters (especially for a short book), and it’s hard not to fall in love with them.
The story is predictable for adults, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. I found myself touched by it, and I’m sure kids won’t figure out where it is going. Not that the book is filled with twists or surprises. It’s just a simple, touching story of how an unexpected friendship helped these two characters lead better lives. It’s truly such a sweet book with nothing that should frighten anyone.
Each two page spread is filled with wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Tony. His artwork is beautiful and brings the story to life in a rich way. Most two page spreads are roughly half text and half picture, so the pages will still go by quickly, encouraging young readers since they will feel like they are making great progress in the book.
My only hesitation is a couple of French words that Mo Willems uses. He gives plenty of context, so it’s easy to figure out what the words mean, but beginning readers might stumble a bit over the French words and their pronunciation. Then again, maybe that’s just me since I’ve always struggled with foreign languages. On the other hand, Flea has some very fun misunderstandings of words that will delight young readers.
So if you are looking for a great book to transition your young reader toward chapter books, The Story is Diva and Flea will do just that. Everyone will be charmed with this delightful story.