Two children quest while pondering the nature of friendship.
Pizzoli literally frames his story by placing a pair of children onstage, drawing and constructing props together. These pages are steeped in retro aesthetic, all heavily bordered by decorated columns and curtains in persimmon and gold. Likewise the children, a white boy and young girl of color, look nicely vintage too, with large, rounded heads reminiscent of classic characters such as Crockett Johnson’s Harold. After finding magical, Day-Glo orange stars, they exit the constraining stage, at which point their journey turns imaginary, and the illustrations deftly transition to expansive full-bleed spreads. Well-placed orange highlights, such as a luminous boat, guide the children through various adventures, and though these expeditions are undertaken separately, the friends are reassured that when the stars (both metaphorical and of the Day-Glo variety) lead them back together “after such a long, long time,” there will be “a big, long hug.” This narrative that muses about individuality, accepting others, and remaining close to friends is soothing and poetic, with words and phrases used repetitiously throughout. But the formality also feels incongruent with the playful visuals and approaches overt sentimentality: “I’ll turn toward the light, and wave in the darkness to say that I know you.”
This pleasantly mild hero’s journey is fabulous on the eye, but the narrative speaks more to nostalgic adults than children. (Picture book. 3-7)