Lynn: Paris has been on my mind lately. It is a city I have lived in and continue to love. Better writers than I—and platoons of artists, poets, and filmmakers—have done their best to capture the essence of the City of Light. But I think that, in The Story of Diva and Flea (2015), Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi may have identified what I love most about Paris: it brings out the flâneur in me! Flea, the Parisian cat describes himself as a great flâneur. According to Flea, a flâneur is:
” . . . someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges of the great city just to see what there is to see. A great flâneur has seen everything but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.”
This is a magical pairing of author and illustrator, and this early chapter book is charm itself! Readers meet Flea, the self-named cat of “no fixed address,” and Diva, the pampered but fearful dog who lives at 11 Avenue Le Play. Flea never met an adventure he didn’t want to try and Diva never wanted an adventure. She was perfectly happy to venture no further than her small courtyard, safe from the terrifying FEET passing by. Flea’s enticing stories finally get Diva to take her first pawsteps into the great city. And Diva, it turns out, is able to help Flea overcome the one thing he’s afraid of. This warm, funny story celebrates both the essence of friendship while capturing the essence of a truly unique city. Au revoir! I’m off to do a little flâneur-ing myself!
This is a magical pairing of author and illustrator,
and this early chapter book is charm itself!
Cindy: Don’t miss the author note in which Mo Willems explains how he decided to live in France for a year, wandering the streets like a flâneur in search of a story to tell. He didn’t have to leave his own courtyard to do just that! Illustrator DiTerlizzi adds his own note, too. I can’t decide which illustrations are my favorites: the grand views of gargoyles and Parisian views, or the close-ups of the books’ stars, Diva and Flea, with their expressive faces. Of course, young readers will be too busy chuckling at the humor and worrying just a little about the characters’ fears to select a favorite illustration.
I now have a word for my travel preferences. When I made my first trip to Europe this summer, friends asked what I was most eager to see. I told them I didn’t really care what “tourist” locations we made it to, I just wanted to wander the streets and see what we could discover. Now I know I am a flâneur. And, like Diva, I appreciate good stories. Mo and Tony have created an especially good one.