FICTION

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

tr. from French by Jill Davis. illus. by Beatrice Alemagna. 48p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062657602.
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PreS-Gr 2—In this story from France, a mother and young child arrive at a remote cabin in the pouring rain, and all the protagonist wants to do is play an electronic game on the couch. When mom insists that the kid go outside, the youngster takes the game along for protection from "this boring, wet place" but drops it in the pond. At first, the child is desolate, like "a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane." But then the protagonist begins to really look around: snails glow in the dark; colorful mushrooms are reminiscent of the grandparents' basement; interesting objects lie beneath the mud. A tumble down a hill provides an upside-down view of the world that prompts the kid to notice bugs, talk to a bird, splash in puddles, and watch the world shining through smooth stones. Filled with delight in this "magical do-nothing day," the youngster runs home and even sees mom in a new light as they enjoy hot chocolate together. Alemagna's striking illustrations, executed in gouache, oil, collage, and wax pencil, extend the text. Sheets of rain fall from a black sky into a forest of green shadows. In the early pages, the only brightness emanates from the protagonist, whose gender is never identified, a small speck in the orange coat and pointy hood amid looming trees. But the skies brighten and the kid appears larger as the wonder in new discoveries increases. This poignant read-aloud may motivate children to shut down their devices and interact with the world around them.
VERDICT A strong choice for most picture book collections. Pair it with Dan Yaccarino's Doug Unplugged for group discussion.

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