Friday, April 20, 2012

Picture Book Review - Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

I've blogged before about the powerful draw of series characters. Publishers certainly have tapped into this trend, as it's increasingly rare to see a chapter book that's a stand-alone and not part of a trilogy or longer series. Older kids, even those who aren't otherwise avid readers, often cannot wait for the next installment of their favorite series, whether that's Nancy Drew or Wimpy Kid. And of course graphic novels are all about the series conceit, which keeps readers coming back for more of the further adventures of their favorite superhero or kid next door.

But let's not overlook the impact of series for younger kiddos, because I think it can be just as significant. Sprout delights at pulling a book off the shelf and recognizing the characters populating it. It all began with Thomas for us, but he's really branched out, and now on our weekly library outing, we look for titles featuring Elephant and Piggie, Llama Llama, and even Dinosaur. He's really getting to know the personalities of the characters, and it thrills him to no end when certain elements carry over from one book to the next (and I love that he's making these connections!).

So a few weeks ago we were browsing the shelves at the library and stumbled across a new entry in a series Sprout just adores - the Lola books by Anna McQuinn. Our love affair with these books began with Lola at the Library, which I found even before Sprout joined our family. I eagerly awaited the day when we'd share Lola together, and we have many times since, in both Library and Lola Loves Stories. The simple plots revolve around activities that are very familiar to Sprout: trips to the library, bedtime reading, playing pretend with friends or on your own. We love Lola's energy and her abundant imagination.

And now the fun continues with Lola Reads to Leo, in which Lola gets a new little brother, and begins to share the joy of stories with him. Lola learns a lot about babies: they cry a lot, even in the bath, and they sleep just as much (Lola plays with her teddies while Leo is sleeping). But Lola finds that there's a book for just about any mood Leo is in, whether that's a potty book during diaper changes or a sleepy book when Leo needs a nap. Sprout was so overjoyed to see a new Lola adventure that we read it about three times in the library, and innumerable times since bringing it home (which reminds me - better go renew it!)

I love the warm family dynamic in these stories, the way that parents and children draw together to share books with one another. Since this goes deeply to the heart of our parenting philosophy with Sprout, the notion of presenting him with quality literature that reflects a vast spectrum of cultures and colors and experiences, the Lola stories embody a special meaning for us. And, they are gentle choices that are perfect for winding down at the end of the night or transitioning to a new activity. Rosalind Beardshaw's illustrations are absolutely pitch perfect with Anna McQuinn's text - really a marriage of two skilled artists that has produced the kind of books that will endure for a long time to come.

We can't wait to read more about Lola and Leo - would love to see spunky Lola pulling a wagon full of loads of books, and Leo, sometime very soon!

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