A friendship blooms in this homage to the handwritten letter.
Oscar the ant and Bill the octopus are school pen pals. Through their correspondence, the two seemingly different creatures find much in common. Their communication, full of innocent questions and the sharing of wish lists and thoughtful mementos, brings them together. Through the letters (the book’s sole text), readers will experience the delight, disappointment, surprise, and anticipation each post brings. The digital illustrations, done with some collage, are reminiscent of Ed Emberley’s, with neon colors that pop on the page. A simple format helps clarify who is penning the letter (Bill’s are on the left with yellow stationery; Oscar’s are on the right with blue). Accompanying each message is an image of its author, almost always in the same pose—but with small additions. Finding what’s changed in the simple setup is part of the fun, allowing readers to notice the gifts sent to see how meaningful they are to their recipients. This illustrative device works well; however, this American translation fails to distinguish between the two characters’ handwriting (all text is set in a clean, sans serif typeface), missing the opportunity taken in the French original to further differentiate between the characters’ styles and personalities.
Pichard blends modern interests with the old-fashioned charm of receiving letters by post, proving in this digital age of social media, texting, abbreviation, and brevity that there’s still magic behind the stamp. (Picture book. 4-7)