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Picture Book Review – Anzu and the Art of Friendship

 

ANZU AND THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP

Written by Moni Ritchie Hadley

Illustrated by Nathalia Takeyama

(Albert Whitman & Co.; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

 

Anzu_and_the_Art_of_Friendship_cover_friends_making_origami

 

REVIEW:

Patience and the practice required for paper folding (aka origami) offer the promise of friendship in Anzu and the Art of Friendship written by Moni Ritchie Hadley and illustrated by Nathalia Takeyama.

If your child isn’t already familiar with origami, this multilayered picture book provides a gentle introduction to the beloved Japanese art form while also tackling a topic that should resonate with young readers: making new school friends after moving. When Anzu starts a new school, “her stomach folds in knots.” At the same time, the teacher Mr. Lee informs the class they are beginning a unit on origami.

 

AnzuandtheArtofFriendship int1 mrlee introduces Anzu
Interior art from Anzu and the Art of Friendship written by Moni Ritchie Hadley and illustrated by Nathalia Takeyama, Albert Whitman & Co. ©2023.

 

Readers have already seen Anzu’s creations hanging in her bedroom courtesy of Takeyama’s bold and expressive art that appears to be digitally rendered. That, along with Ritche Hadley’s prose, lets us know from the first page that Anzu adores origami. It’s especially sweet when Anzu’s ojiisan (grandfather) gives her a tsuru (crane) for good luck. Maybe Anzu’s origami skills can help her forge new friendships with her classmates.

Pretty soon Anzu sees her good intentions go unappreciated. She is disappointed that her classmates look for an easy, often silly way out despite her offers of help. At night she explains to Ojiisan what’s been happening. He thoughtfully suggests she try to be patient. The next day is not much better. Anzu’s classmates seem frustrated and look for quick solutions such as scissors and tape. Again she complains to Ojiisan. He compares the skill of creating origami with that of making new friends. She needs to give it time. Still, Anzu is sad about her move and misses her old friends.

 

AnzuandtheArtofFriendship int2 classmate wearing hat dances
Interior spread from Anzu and the Art of Friendship written by Moni Ritchie Hadley and illustrated by Nathalia Takeyama, Albert Whitman & Co. ©2023.

 

Things look up for Anzu the next day when “Mr. Lee displays an origami frog figure.” Always an attention-getter, the frog inspires curiosity and joy. But Anzu’s classmate Alex is frustrated he cannot put the frog back together after he’s unfolded it. This time, after Anzu does all the required folding, creasing, etc., she demonstrates how it can hop. Instead of losing interest, Alex asks Anzu to show him how to do it. At last! Anzu also tells Alex that the frog or the Kaeru, “is a symbol of good luck and a safe return when traveling.” Alex realizes the Kaeru is something meaningful he can give to his father to take on his next business trip. His interest in the paper creation prompts Anzu to come up with fun ways to engage her formerly reluctant classmates (see illustration above), and it works! Folding leads to friendship and Anzu’s spirits soar.

All the work involved in making origami as well as the symbolism of each figure serve as perfect metaphors for this book’s themes of perseverance, empathy, and kindness. Young readers will rejoice when they see how Anzu has truly mastered the art of friendship. They’ll also see the rewards of not giving up, whether that involves sticking with a tough project or trying to make a new friend. While in real life these things may take a little longer, the positive message conveyed in Anzu and the Art of Friendship makes this book easy to recommend.

The special meaning of the origami figures included in the story is explained in the back matter.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

BUY THE BOOK:

Support a local independent bookshop by clicking here to purchase Anzu and the Art of Friendship.

FIND THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

MONI –

Click here for Moni’s website.

https://www.instagram.com/bookthreader

https://www.twitter.com/bookthreader

https://www.facebook.com/bookthreader

 

NATHALIA –

Click here for more about Nathalia.

https://www.instagram.com/natztak

https://www.twitter.com/natztak

https://www.facebook.com/nathalia.takeyama/

Read a guest post by Moni about her debut picture book, The Star Festival.

Find out about The Star Festival here.

 

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Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
with illustrations by Jonathan Bean
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

Bad Bye, Good Bye (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is such a great title. Even my almost 13-year-old who hasn’t read picture books for quite some time remarked about how clever the title was and how he instantly knew what the book would be about.

Families move. It happens all the time. Moms or Dads get new jobs and whammo, it’s time to pack up, head to another city (or country as it was in our case) and start all over again. It’s never easy to move and leave behind all we know and love, but having a picture book like Bad Bye, Good Bye to share with kids when relocating can really help parents broach the topic gently and also help kids open up about their hopes and fears.

As I mentioned earlier, Bad Bye, Good Bye is such a terrific title that I’m surprised no one thought of it sooner. Having moved three times with my children because of my husband’s job, I know firsthand how unsettling and sad it can be for youngsters. If the change is hard and stressful for an adult, imagine how overwhelming it is for little ones who don’t have all the coping skills yet in place for dealing with these kinds of major life events. Underwood wastes no time in setting the scene by beginning the picture book with moving men loading a family’s belongings onto a moving van while two red-faced children cry. In fact the little boy even clings to a mover’s leg in an attempt to stop him. Everything is rotten.

Bad day,
Bad box,
Bad mop,
Bad blocks.

What can go right for this brother and sister who do not want to leave their home and their friends? Even their car journey to their new home is filled with anxiety. The sparse rhyming text manages to convey the reluctance of the kids even as the artwork begins to show more positive parts of moving.

As the jacket flap copy reads: “Bad Bye, Good Bye is perfect for moving day or any of life’s tough transitions.” What parents can do is have this book on hand to read when there are no big moves planned so children can see that not all aspects of a move or a change are sad. For example, one of the two child characters in the story meets a neighborhood boy he spies from upstairs while he’s checking out his new bedroom and soon they’re watching fireflies light up the night together.

New kid,
Good throw,
New Bugs,
Good glow.

Bean’s illustrations work beautifully with the text. His paintings combine both the deep darker colors of the mood everyone is feeling as well as less prominent sketches on the same page to indicate movement and progression of time. I cannot picture this book with anything but these illustrations because they’re so full of the emotion and local color that Underwood’s story has set up so well. As someone who has experienced the sadness and apprehension of moving multiple times with my young children, I would not hesitate to recommend reading Bad Bye, Good Bye as a way to make any move or change acceptable and perhaps even looked forward to!

And for a bonus – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s provided a page of moving tips for families you can find by clicking here.

 


 

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