In Montesi’s debut chapter book, three children become friends as they learn about themselves, the world around them, and one another.
Elementary school student Beatrice is blonde, freckled, sporty, and loves treehouses. When she hears that Antoine, a red-haired boy in her neighborhood whom she doesn’t know very well, has built one, she feels compelled to go and see it. Antoine is glad that Beatrice is interested and makes an appointment to have tea with her the next day; he also invites his dark-haired, thin friend Giorgio. Antoine is precise and organized; Giorgio is curious and a little clumsy. After their first tea together, the three become friends. Giorgio, who loves animals, introduces Beatrice and Antoine to several different kinds, including red fish, a turtle, tadpoles, a hen, ducklings, multiple trout, and ants, while explaining how to observe and interpret their behaviors. Sometimes the interactions are playful, as when Giorgio seems to understand his pet turtle’s vanity and the need to flatter her; other times, the approach is more scientific, as when the children devise a test of their ducklings’ decision-making skills. The kids also race go-karts and attend a carnival. In these activities, the children discuss different approaches to life; for example, Giorgio is practical, while Beatrice is philosophical. But they find these differences intriguing rather than annoying: “We are all unique, and tolerance for each other makes us live in a world of endless discoveries,” concludes the third-person narrator. This final moral is laid on a little thick, and the book’s beginning is a bit confusing, with an initial “Introduction” followed by “The Real Introduction.” In between, though, Montesi offers many delightful scenes, some of which have an engaging poignancy. For example, the kids find that Clarissa, a hen, is hopelessly in love with Giorgio. Beatrice hilariously explains to the bird that “He will never be able to love you back, especially in the long run.” The kids then intuit that Clarissa believes that “Love is blind, and there is nothing I can do about it.” Such scenes offer much more pleasure than the book’s unsubtle messages about appreciating difference.
Clumsy in places but with many charming moments.