Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring by Rebecca Bond

Today’s post is by Kahla Gubanich, a children’s and maker librarian at Carroll County Public Library in north-central Maryland.

What better day to make a new friend than the very first day of spring? Pig and Goose hit it off immediately in Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring by Rebecca Bond. This set of three vignettes celebrates the season, new friendships, and the things that make us all unique and interesting. The titular characters meet in the first chapter while Pig is walking to her favorite picnic spot. Pig praises Goose’s flying skills, and Goose sees no reason why he can’t teach Pig how to fly, too. What follows is a delightfully energetic scene in which Pig gives flying her best shot. Never mind that she doesn’t achieve lift-off, because there’s still a picnic lunch! In the second chapter the two new friends share lunch in the cool shade of a big oak tree while discussing their mutual love of all the seasons. The final chapter brings the day to a close with Pig’s First-Day-of-Spring Party, where Pig cooks up a delicious dinner for all her friends and charms them with stories both old and new.

There are several elements that make this book a great beginning reader. Certain sentences are repeated at intervals that allow the reader room to gain familiarity and confidence with the text without becoming monotonous. When Pig first spots Goose, he is little more than a white dot in the sky. “The dot got bigger and bigger. The dot came to land right by Pig! The dot was not a dot at all. It was a goose!” Later, after their picnic lunch, Goose hops into the pond for a swim. Again, Pig sees only a small white dot. “The dot got bigger and bigger. The dot hopped out of the water right by Pig! The dot was not a dot at all. It was Goose!” Subtle changes between the two sections keep the text fresh while leaving plenty of familiar ground.

The staccato beat of short, simple sentences is periodically accented with longer, complex sentences that still maintain the steady rhythm. This is demonstrated in the scene where Pig first meets Goose. “Pig packed a big lunch and set off. She began to skip. She began to hum. Then she stopped. Up above, in the clear blue sky, there was a small white dot.” This sentence also reveals some of what makes this beginning reader a great story. The text is dappled throughout with crisp details that enhance both character and setting in subtle but meaningful ways. The setting for their picnic lunch is painted brightly with color and detail. “The shade was deep green. The pond was dark blue. High above, the sun glowed hot orange.” While still fitting decidedly within the established rhythm of the action-based sentences, these simple details add a rich layer to the story.

Soft ink and watercolor illustrations support the action of the text and expand upon the crisp descriptions. Pig’s rosy cheeks and perpetual smile add sincerity to her refrain of, “Goody gumdrops!” Pig’s brief disappointment with her inability to fly is hinted at in the text, but is primarily revealed through an uncharacteristic droopiness of posture and ears. The rustic setting takes lush shape in the illustrations, bounding with fresh greenery and rich, first-day-of-spring colors. A page turn near the end impresses as it transitions from energetic party scenes of storytelling and dancing to a full spread image of the night sky, exploding with stars. Like us, the characters can’t help but stop and stare at the stars, so “bright and white and crisp.”

The heart of the story exists in such quiet moments. Pig and Goose are both thoughtful and observant, and they are quick to recognize and value each other’s talents. Pig may not be graceful, and she may never fly or swim, but she sure can tell a story! Their friendship rings true, full of fast-paced fun but also contemplative silences and a genuine enjoyment in spending time together, no matter what the activity. In short, Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring manages to tell a story of new friends in which the book itself embodies all the best elements of friendship: the excitement of the first encounter, the comfortable familiarity that develops, and a generous sprinkling of the unexpected.

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