Monday, April 11, 2016

Book of the Week: Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-820-4
Ages 4-8

“It will be a day filled with surprises,” Alice Babette thinks. “Alice’s first surprise was that there was NO surprise. Her friend Gertrude didn’t even say happy birthday.” Alice spends the day walking around Paris. She rides a merry-go-round in the park. She attends a puppet show. She even thwarts a robbery! Meanwhile, Gertrude is planning a special meal for Alice, even though she can’t cook. She shops for ingredients. A neighbor shows her how to light the stove. “On the stove, the pot lids tap-danced as the food cooked.” But she’s also writing Alice a poem, about a rose, and loses all track of time. An imagined story about Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein is full of whimsy--and smoke! Alice returns home to a mess. But when Gertrude later reads the poem, Alice loves it. The characters may be adults but everything in this story has child appeal, from the back-and-forth movement between Alice’s and Gertrude’s adventures to the spirited writing to the charm of their distinctive personalities and the obvious fondness between them. Blithe pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are a perfect accompaniment. An author’s note does not explicitly state the two women were partners, instead noting that they “lived together for almost forty years.” ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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