Armadillo and Hare: Tales from the Forest

David Fickling. Feb. 2020. 160p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338540598.
Gr 1-3–Armadillo and Hare are friends sharing a cabin in the woods, but they couldn’t be more different. Armadillo only likes to eat cheese sandwiches and grumble; Hare tries new things and is full of energy. The two experience all kinds of adventures together, from solving the problem of a burnt-out refrigerator light to their cabin floating away in a storm. They meet several new animals along the way and learn that sometimes, creatures are more complex than they seem. The book, reminiscent in the style of Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad,” is told through a series of vignettes that shape a cohesive story of friendship. There are many commendable messages and fun plot points, but readers may wish Strong had gone deeper with themes or played more with quirky elements (one delightful element that isn’t explored enough: Hare’s tuba, which spits out objects when he plays). There are also moments that feel problematic: Hare tells Armadillo that Armadillo should stop eating his beloved cheese and lose weight. Later on, Hare stops Armadillo from dancing at a forest party, simply because Armadillo is a poor dancer. Bagley’s black-and-white illustrations employ a variety of textures and contribute to the whimsy in the book.
VERDICT In spite of some problematic moments, this is a fun story that focuses on friendship and unlikely adventures.

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