Flora and the Flamingo/Molly Idle: Reflections

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flora and the Flamingo, a 2013 Caldecott Honor Book by Molly Idle (Chronicle Books), arrived at my home yesterday—and how happy was I to see it. Like all truly outstanding picture books, this story about a flouncy girl and an elegant bird needs no words. On bright expanses of white, these two mostly pinkish creatures posture and pose, pursue and retreat, provoke and mimic—which is to say, they forge a friendship.

The flamingo stands on a single webbed foot. Flora does too. The flamingo rearranges its skinny leg. Flora flexes her own rather less skinny one. The flamingo stretches its wings, and look, Flora has wings as well. But soon things get complicated—the flamingo so happy to be looked at, so unto itself, that Flora (trying too hard to emulate the bird's strutting configurations) takes a tumble. Feelings get hurt. The flamingo turns, Flora turns. The you-do-as-I-do changes to a let-us-do-together. The two dance now, face to face.

What is remarkable about this book is how emotional it all becomes. How everything is said without the expenditure of a single letter. But also: how much like dance this really does become—graceful, exuberant, joyous, each character bigger by far within the wingspan of the other.

A better Beth would take this book to the nearest child as a gift. But I'm just going to have to buy a copy for the next little one in my life (and I know precisely who that is). I'm keeping this copy for me, for when I want to be reminded of the power of friendship and the necessary glory of dance.

For those who wonder, that is Scott Lazarov and Magdalena Piekarz, as I photographed them back in 2009 at DanceSport Academy in Ardmore.


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