Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Friend

The Friend

David Small
Illustrator:  Sarah Stewart 
Picture Book
For ages 4 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004   ISBN: 978-0374324636

Belle is a little girl who is mostly forgotten by her parents. Luckily Belle does have someone in her life who never seems to forget her. Belle has Bea, a wonderful woman who takes care of Belle’s home, but more importantly Bea takes care of Belle. Best of all Bea is Belle’s friend, her playmate, who plays with the little girl and who praises the small girl’s odd little ways.

Every day the two friends do some housework; they clean, iron, bake, wash the clothes or do the shopping. Then, every day they also do something fun together, often playing on the beach, looking for treasures, building sand castles, or having a tea-party on the sand. This is what they do every day except Sunday when Bea takes Belle to church. Afterwards they rest in the sun "And give thanks that the week’s work was done."

It is during one such restful afternoon that Belle gets it into her head to go to the beach alone, determined to be "the boss of myself." Only, such a little girl shouldn’t be her own boss because she might get into trouble, which is just what Belle does, she gets into dreadful trouble.

This is a glorious tribute to all those wonderful people who are always there for the little children who are forgotten, and also for those people who are always there when children get into trouble and need help. The world would be a better place if every little Belle child had a Bea to keep an eye on her and who would make her feel special and loved.

David Small’s magical paintings leave one feeling revived and wishing one could be a child again. With enormous skies and open spaces his views are things of rare beauty and his portrait of this loving relationship between a maid and the child she cares for is warm and loving.

David Small and Sarah Stewart are a source of great pleasure to children’s book readers of all ages and their work seems to become more and more powerful with every book that they create together.