New family moving in down the street,
one man, two women, a parakeet.
But wait! I can't believe my eyes,
a girl who's just about my size.
Eloise Greenfield's picture book, written in verse, tells the story of Drum, his new pal Dorene, and the two other children, Louis and Rae, who join up for a summer of fun and friendship. The children play games, tell tall tales, get in trouble, and create their own town with cardboard, paint, and a lot of creativity.
An ode to simple childhood pleasures, The Friendly Four is a sweet book that begs to be read out loud in a classroom. Greenfield labels the lines with a character's name so that a reader knows who is speaking.
Like Kelly Bennett's humorous Not Norman: A Goldfish Story (illustrated by Noah Z. Jones), Greenfield's book depicts African-American children just living their lives. Another new book, Roni Schotter's Mama, I'll Give You the World (with art by Saelig Gallagher), is set beauty shop and features a multi-racial cast led by a dear little girl named Luisa. (Anne at Book Buds recently reviewed Schotter's picture book.) All three titles are warm-hearted and endearing. I thought of something that the illustrator and blogger Don Tate told Cynthia Leitich-Smith in an interview last spring; I know others share Don's sentiments. He said,
I'd like to see more African American children's books with contemporary themes. Seems that so many books with African American themes are historical related, something to sell during Black History Month. Nothing wrong with historical books, our kids need to know about our forefathers, but what about books that speak to today's child in terms of right now or fantasies...or more tall tales?!
Food for thought, yes?