Griffin, Sheinmel, and Palacios introduce an earnest, quirky duo in a light series for transitioning readers.
Four short seasonal vignettes—“Spring: Surprise Party,” “Summer: Beach Day,” “Fall: New Sneakers,” and “Winter: Perfect Pizza”—illustrate a year’s time with best friends Agnes Pig and Clarabelle Chicken. The pair is unquestionably charming and unapologetically unconventional. For instance: both friends plan and organize Clarabelle's “surprise” birthday party; instead of shopping for new shoes, Agnes gives Clarabelle the pair she’s wearing, having grown out of them; Agnes’ idea of bad news is going to the beach; and a perfect pizza sports chestnut, popcorn, and white-chocolate-chip toppings. Interspersed through the stories are alternating moments when one is scared, reassuring, or understanding. Agnes squawks, clucks, and shakes her tail feathers with excitement; and to comfort her friend, she squeezes Clarabelle’s hoof—they’re a chicken and pig, after all. Gentle wordplay is beautifully childlike: Clarabelle says, “I want to leave this store of lostness,” after becoming disoriented in a department store. Palacios, Pura Belpré illustration honoree for Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match /Marisol McDonald no combina, by Monica Brown (2011), decorates almost every spread with soft and warm-colored paintings. Agnes often dons a bow, and Clarabelle wears flowers; they are often inexplicably, but sweetly, surrounded by birds. Sequel Agnes and Clarabelle Celebrate! publishes simultaneously.
Though episodic rather than eventful, it’s sure to entertain young readers transitioning to chapter books. (Fiction. 5-7)