March’s Hot-Off-the-Press Birthday Pick
March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
This one goes out to all the little girls out there—or rather, to their little friends who have spring birthdays. Debut author-illustrator You Byun’s brand new Dream Friends (Ages 2.5-6) is full of the stuff of little girls’ dreams. I’m talking about sugar and spice and everything nice—or, more specifically, bunny rabbits and tea parties and baby chicks and Santa Claus and cupcakes and flowers and, of course, friendship. Melody has a friend, a best friend, only he’s not your typical friend: for starters, he’s big and white and furry (an ambiguous but lovable dog-cat-raccoon looking thing that my daughter has taken to kissing on the nose each time he makes an appearance). The bigger problem is that this magical friend only visits the little girl in her dreams (although these dreams are filled with such delights as dancing on flower-shaped clouds or watching fireworks explode in the shape of ice cream cones and lollipops). As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a soft spot for Japanese-influenced illustration, and Byun’s transcendent ink and watercolor paintings, infused with the pinks and purples and oranges of twilight, have an ethereal blurriness that perfectly suits them to the subject matter at hand. My daughter and I have already spent many readings pouring over our favorite spread: a game of hide-and-seek played out in the little girl’s bedroom-turned-enchanted-forest, where socks grow on trees and baby animals hide in dresser drawers. With minimum text, the paintings beg to be explored by little eyes and (like dreams themselves) can often be interpreted in more than one way. It’s in their preschool years that children become aware of their dreams: my son loves to tell us about his “crazy” dreams, which are filled with just as many absurdly fantastical details as the ones that befall Melody while she sleeps. But what children will most relate to in this story is Melody’s yearning for a friend in her real life, for a buddy to dance with the way her dream friend dances with her. In the end, Melody’s dream friend gives her a gift far more meaningful than fantastical voyages: like the imaginary friends of so many children, this one frees Melody’s inhibitions just enough for her to catch the attention of another girl on the playground. It’s when these two new friends link arms and begin to share their lives with one another that the true dream is realized. So the next time your little one needs to say Happy Birthday to someone special, have her give that friend this book—and with it her Best Wishes for a lifetime of sweet dreams.