Wolfie & Fly by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Zoe Si (9781101918203)
Renata Wolfman doesn’t have friends, she’d much rather play all alone because then you don’t need to share or compromise with others. Even her parents can’t get her to go out with them, she’d rather stay home and read her factual books about sea life. When Renata is left alone at home one day, a boy comes over. Livingston Flott, known as Fly at school, wants to hide from his older brother. Renata, called Wolfie by Fly and others at school, reluctantly lets him in, interrupting her building of a submarine out of a refrigerator box. Soon the two of them are starting to play imaginary games together, something entirely new for Wolfie. But when real water starts to pour into the windows, can they imagine their way right into the sea?
This early chapter book features a girl who loves control and facts and a boy who wants to create songs and loves to imagine. The two together are a dynamic mix, creating just the right amount of tension between them and showing how opposites can actually make the best playmates as long as ideas are shared and there’s a willingness to try new things. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the water turns out not to be entirely imaginary, something that underlines that fact that imagination and reality mix to something entirely extraordinary.
Si’s illustrations are playful and add exactly the right amount of pictures to break up the text, making this a great pick for newer readers. Her art is playful, done in black and white and shows the submarine that Wolfie made and the adventures that the two have together with a jolly merriment.
A strong pick for early chapter book collections, fans of Ivy & Bean and Bink & Gollie will find another pair of playmates worth knowing here. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley received from NetGalley and Tundra Books.
Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, illustrations by Boris Kulikov
Based on a true story, this picture book reads more like a far-fetched fantasy. Papa is an inventor but has never made anything that works. All he needs is one incredible idea, but they don’t come easily. So the family takes a trip to the lake where one of the children, the narrator of the book, asks what it is like to be a fish. That gives Papa the incredible idea he was looking for. The first version of his mechanical fish is so small that Papa himself can barely fit into it. It almost works. The second version is bigger and has a fin and a propeller and seats two people. It almost works. Whitefish III is even bigger, seats three, and is covered in copper. It almost works too. The fourth version is huge, fits the entire family, and… Well, you just have to read the story to see how it ends.
The whimsy of these inventions is a large part of what makes this book so successful. From the slow progress of the machines from one version to the next to the joy of seeing them tried out in the story, this is a book where you must find out what happens next. Fleming has also written a charming story of a family that supports the inventor. There is a rhythm to the story that makes it a pleasure, each attempt and failure met with similar satisfying responses from his family. This makes the book work for a larger age range and makes reading it all the more fun.
Kulikov’s illustrations are a mix of realistic illustrations, huge fish that float past as inspiration in the water, and blueprints that let you glimpse the inside of each version of the submarine. The entire book has a wonderful frantic quality to it, engaging the reader right in the moment of Aha! and then through the different trials.
A treat of a book, this book will be inspiring to young engineers and inventors. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.